Experts ask for stricter, clearer norms.
Associations of architects and of builders along with private enterprises have spoken out against the results of the disastrous fire at the Calderón Guardia Hospital and have demanded a change in fire safety regulations and the enforcement of stricter measures to prevent these emergencies.
They want coherent norms when it comes to human security against fires in buildings and to reevaluate the regulation on human security and protection against fires published in January.
Controversy over ruling.
Although the groups agree that the Firefighter Corps has made a big step in promulgating new regulations, they believe that adopting the fire code of the U.S. National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is unwise.
Objections include the fact that the code has not been published throughout the country, has not been entirely translated into Spanish and applies to both new and old buildings.
In addition, some requirements in the new ruling are very strict and their high cost makes them impractical. For example, U.S. norms demand placing smoke detectors and sprinklers every nine meters when these apparatuses have a range of 18 meters. It would be expensive to do this.
The perception is that the regulations do not take into account Costa Rican reality and builders want norms that are consistent with other current regulations regarding construction.
In response, the director of the Firefighter Corps said that the US code should be taken as a reference. He said not every regulation had to be followed but that those published in January should be.
Involved groups recommend the formation of an evaluating committee that will give expert opinion on building safety. It was recommend that the Association of Engineers and Architects be in charge of supervising the fulfillment of these norms and issue permits on construction plans. Currently the Firefighters Corps does this.
The committee should also inspect buildings periodically to verify that alarm systems work, water pressure is adequate and the buildings have an evacuation plan.
The Association of Engineers and Architects recommended inspection of buildings vital to the country based on technical rules relative to engineering and architecture.
President of the Chamber of Costa Rican Construction: “We are committed to the protection of people but with supervision so that measures are applied and fulfilled – not confusing regulations that dress up a plan and then are forgotten.”
Executive Director of the Association of Engineers and Architects: “One measure that should be adopted is that after a disaster the affected buildings not be rebuilt as they were before. This would ensure the safety of the building and of people.”
Director of the Firefighters Corps: “When we put these norms into practice, we want to tell professionals to use them as a reference, but keeping in mind our national construction reality.”
Our thanks to our friends at La Nacion – Costa Rica’s largest Spanish circulation newspaper for their permission to use their article in English.
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