China plans to ban entertainment venues and shopping malls from the basement levels of high-rise buildings to reduce the risk of fatal fires, according to a draft regulation released on Wednesday.
The Ministry of Public Security is soliciting public feedback about the idea until Jan 20, when the proposals will be submitted to the ministry's Party committee.
The draft rules prohibit shopping malls on floors B3 and below in all high-rises, including residential blocks 24 meters high or more and commercial buildings of 27 meters or more.
Entertainment venues, such as karaoke bars, will be barred from floors B2 and below.
In addition, activity areas for children would be limited to spaces on the first through third floors, which are equipped with independent evacuation staircases and safety exits.
"This will provide a legal basis for authorities to strengthen fire safety management in high-rise buildings, and prevent and curb the high incidence of fatal blazes," a ministry statement said.
In recent years, a number of fires across the country involved tall buildings, resulting in many casualties and major property loss.
A typical case occurred in early December, when a fire killed 10 and injured 16 people in one tall building in Tianjin. The fire broke out on the 38th floor and quickly spread. It was found that construction enterprises had drained water stored for firefighting.
The fire was caused by piles of sundries and discarded decoration materials on the 38th floor of the apartment building. Eleven suspects were criminally detained.
The draft said that if the owners and users of high-rise buildings want to partly reconstruct, expand or decorate, they must declare the fire-control acceptance check, and they should not change any function of building, alter partitions for fire or smoke control or affect the normal use of fire-control facilities.
Under the draft, shops or public amusement facilities may not place flammable materials in indoor pedestrian passages or atriums in tall buildings.
The draft said if the tall buildings have more than two owners or users, they must entrust one property management company or fire-control technical service agency to be responsible for the fire safety management work, and two qualified personnel must be on duty 24 hours a day to monitor and help prevent fires.
According to the draft, the outdoor billboards and decorations of high-rise buildings may not use flammable materials, nor should such elements affect smoke discharge, block escape pathways or hinder fire rescue workers.
The draft said electric bicycles must not be parked in the evacuation walkways, staircases or safety exits in tall buildings or be charged in those places. The residential property management company should conduct regular checks of fire risks, monitor the fire-control facilities and enhance publicity to raise the awareness of users to prevent fires.
If the owners, users or property management companies are found in violation of fire-control regulations, they must rectify any problems in a limited period of time. If they fail to do so, they will receive warnings or administrative punishments, the draft said.
Officials whose abuse of power or negligence results in a serious fire incident will be subject to criminal punishment, it said.