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Bangalore's much-awaited metro rail was flagged off on 20 October. Like its counterpart in Delhi, its swanky stations include modern facilities of safety at par with international standards. Venkatesh Ganapathy explains why metro trains and stations need to be aware of the limitations of codes and standards.The overwhelming number of potential fire and security challenges that confront today's environment increasingly point out to the need for a well-planned strategy to successfully cope with the potential threats. This is something that needs to be on the drawing board of regulatory authorities.The operational challenges in fighting fire result from a number of factors: the wherewithal available with fire brigades, the emergency response of people involved, the time within which fire brigade can arrive at a scene, means of egress, the fire protection equipment that can take care of fire till the fire brigade arrives etc. It is essential that evacuation plans must look at functional ways of evacuating a large number of people within a short time. Metro stations do present increased challenges due to their dense population and also heavy vehicular traffic in adjoining areas.Fire Safety in metro stationsAfter the Taegu subway fire incident in South Korea, fire prevention became an important consideration of the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system of Singapore. That MRT uses National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) guidelines for enhancing fire safety within metro systems. Ireland has its own standards for fire safety for the metro system. UK follows a combination of NFPA and British standards. In Bangkok, the MRT operates 19 three-car metro trains with two motor cars and a centre trailer car. Each train is provided with two fire extinguishers, while the driving cab has one.In Australia, the safety assurance process is a risk-based process that covers all design aspects that affect safety, including signals, track design, occupational health and safety, security (including terrorist risks) and fire protection engineering. Fire protection engineers can expect their fire strategies to be challenged in detail. Prescriptive codes may give some direction for fire strategy, but reliance on these alone may not demonstrate that the required level of safety has been achieved.Codes, standards and jurisdictionsBesides identifying the codes and standards, the practising engineer must also identify the many authorities having jurisdictions and their role in the project. Examples of different authorities are the project owner, architect, insurance organisations, building officials, fire officials. Codes offer detailed guidelines for the development of structures. Standards provide the technical details necessary to meet code requirements.Codes specify what and where, while standards say how. Standards contain requirements concerning the application design, installation and location of fire protection systems or features required by the codes. The product and system standards should seamlessly merge to give a balanced protection. Where required, the design engineer has to tweak the design to obtain this balance.If individual smoke detectors have a sensitivity that is less than what is permitted by system standard, then the designer has to place the smoke detectors in close proximity (than the specification by system standard). This sort of design is labelled as a performance based design. All the components of a fire protection plan must work in perfect harmony with each other.Fire protection engineering objectivesThe fire protection engineering objectives include safeguarding people from injury due to a fire, avoiding fire spread to adjacent property and facilitating emergency services' activities. A 'safety-by-design' approach is adopted for all design elements to include consideration to installation, operation and maintenance risk. Other objectives include operational continuity and reliability, which can involve maintaining operations after a relatively small fire, maintaining operations in degraded mode after a significant fire, and implementing a process to avoid escalation of a fire. These operational objectives require early detection and response to incidents, including a robust communication strategy: