Urban Managers Say Taking Action to Secure Tehran Buildings

Most buildings in central Tehran are part of the old urban texture housing important commercial activities. The structures have rarely been retrofitted to modern standards and mostly lack adequate safety
Latest inspections of 17,000 buildings in Tehran found that almost 3,000 are highly unsafe and insecure.Latest inspections of 17,000 buildings in Tehran found that almost 3,000 are highly unsafe and insecure.

Fifteen days after the half-century old Plasco Building collapsed, urban managers and public authorities seem to be taking their responsibilities seriously to keep the large numbers of old structures in the sprawling capital city safe and secure.

Esmail Najjar, head of the National Disaster Management Organization (NDMOI) on Tuesday announced plans to inspect buildings across Tehran and rank them on the basis of their shortcomings and flaws.

“The plan will help ensure that all buildings across the city are examined scrupulously and prioritized for reinforcing and strengthening based on their level of vulnerability,” he told IRNA.

“Once checked and assessed, they will enter the process of getting secured as per safety standards.”

The decision was made at a recent cabinet meeting, where President Hassan Rouhani tasked Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli to identify Tehran’s time-worn buildings and take necessary measures to update their safety standards, said Najjar, who doubles as deputy interior minister. 

The 17-storey Plasco commercial building turned into rubble on January 19 after a blaze for more than three hours on the upper floors and some huge blasts that followed, burying 15 firefighters and four business owners. In all, official reports said there were 20 deaths and over 200 sustained injuries.

As the blame game began in the early moments after the collapse, several experts criticized the building’s lack of safety standards and negligence on the part of the building owner as well as the shopkeepers. They also singled out the Tehran Municipality and Tehran City Council for gross inaction towards the old structure despite being aware of its decrepit state.

Urban managers on the other hand, responded by saying that official written warnings had been sent to the building managers on multiple occasions.

Masoumeh Abad, head of the Health and Safety Committee of the TCC said last Sunday that nearly 3,000 buildings in Tehran are in the same condition as the ill-fated Plasco Building. 

“Latest inspections of 17,000 buildings in Tehran found that almost 3,000 are highly unsafe and insecure,” she was quoted by Mehr News Agency as saying. 

Mohsen Pirhadi, member of the presiding board of the council said that almost 40% of the buildings on Jomhuri Street (where Plasco was located) alone are structurally weak. 

Most buildings in central Tehran are part of the old urban texture housing some of the important commercial hubs in the overcrowded capital. These buildings have rarely been retrofitted to modern standards as most lack adequate safety. 

“The securing and reinforcing work will be implemented in cooperation with Tehran Municipality, benefactors, and owners,” Najjar explained. 

  Regular Inspections

The plan also calls for a periodic and regular safety inspection of all structures by experts and special inspectors. The assessments will be intensified and conducted more regularly for buildings that house a large number of people such as high-rises, schools, mosques, and shopping malls.

The official hoped that the Plasco incident would be a lesson for all people, including the authorities, to pay more attention to building safety measures.

However, people are still skeptical that public authorities will take any meaningful action or push for significant and timely changes before the next disaster strikes. 

Determined to take matters into their own hands, more and more building managers are now putting up notices for residents to chip in and install central fire detection and alarm systems.

In the wake of the accident, Alborz Insurance Company has reported that over 1,000 new business owners had visited the company after the Plasco incident to buy insurance policy.

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