The Russian government will change fire safety requirements and standards for firefighing in Russia aas the result of a fire in the Winter Cherry complex mall in Kemerovo (center of Russia’s coal production), which resulted in at least 64 deaths and more than 50 injuries, according to recent statements of some officials from the Russian Presidential Administration and the Ministry of Emergency Situations.
In recent years, there have been several large fires in shopping centers in Russia, including a fire in the shopping center Admiral in March 2015 in Kazan (19 people killed) and a fire in Moscow (almost 10 firefighters killed). However, no serious actions were taken by the state.
There is a possibility such a situation will change this year, as the Russian government has already designed measures aimed at raising the level of fire safety in the country.
According to the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations Vladimir Puchkov, a new system of online monitoring of fire safety will be introduced in all public facilities in Russia shortly. Such systems will be installed at all large facilities with an area of at least 5,000 square meters.
The government also has plans to introduce a double system of classification of facilities in terms of fire safety. This involves classification of all public facilities in terms of architecture, hazard class, and ownership type.
More importantly, Russia plans to use more international experience in the field of firefighting, which involves attracting private supervisory companies for the conduction of fire inspections in the country.
Alexander Starostin, executive director of the Fire Center Group of Companies, one of Russia’s largest privately owned providers of services in the field of fire safety, comments:
"In the UAE, the state fire service is exclusively engaged in the protection of special facilities, while fire safety of all other objects and facilities is ensured by private companies. The UAE government has a long-term contract with one of the UK companies, which is responsible for the majority of fire safety issues within the territory of the Emirates. There is a different system in the EU, where supervisory functions in the field of fire safety are often delegated to insurance companies, which are interested in the conduction of a control for fire safety, due to their financial risks.”
Planned measures also involve the establishment of voluntary fire departments in remote regions of the country, as well as multifunctional fire stations and fire testing laboratories, that will alow faster response to fires.
There are also plans to introduce new technologies to prevent fires, including those using robotics and heavy aircrafts. Finally, the government plans to allocate funds for the development of new technologies for early fire warning.
Vladimir Puchkov adds that by the end of this year, 136 multipurpose fire stations will be built in 58 regions of Russia: "We plan to significantly increase the aviation group for the fire service, bringing the number of aircrafts to 12. Currently we have six. Overall, there are about 100 firefighting aircraft in our country."
According to state plans, by 2020, the level of fire risk in Russia is set to reach the level of developed countries.
According to a former inspector of the Russian State Fire Supervision, doctor of technical sciences Vadim Korobko, despite the reform of the Russian firefighting service, which has been going since the beginning of 2010, and the latest statements of the Minister, the system has not changed and therefore the high probability of mass deaths remains.
This is confirmed by statistics of the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations, which shows despite the fact that the number of fires in the country as well as the number of fire deaths has declined in recent years, it remains still significantly higher compared to the same statistics for Western countries.
According to last year's report of the International Association of Fire and Rescue Services (CTIF), in Russia, last year the number of fire death per 100,000 population in Russia was six people, which is significantly higher than the United States (one) and the United Kingdom (0.5).
The current system of firefighting in Russia is also criticized by independent experts. According to head of the Transparency International St. Petersburg, Dmitry Sukharev, firefighting in Russia and especially its vast province has become a form of business and is used by some local firefighting inspectors for personal wealth accumulation.
An example of this is the recent arrest of Dmitriy Unagayev, head of the State Firefighting Service in Buryatia, one of the largest regions in Siberia, on suspicion of receiving a bribe for patronage in the conduct of fire supervision.
One of the reasons there is corruption in the Russian firefighting industry is low salaries of fire inspectors and supervisors. The salary range of inspectors and supervisors ranges from 15,000 to 30,000 rubles (US$250-400) per month, which is a small figure even for Russia.
The situation is aggravated by the poor material and technical resources of the Russian State Firefighting Service.