Srinagar: Admitting that the government and private hospitals in the State lack proper fire fighting system, the Director General of Fire Services Monday said that they have issued advisory to all the hospitals to incorporate various fighting mechanism.
He also suggested general public to take more precautions to avoid fire incidents.
“We are very much concerned about the increase in fire incidents in Kashmir valley. We have issued advisory to Government Hospital of Kashmir to incorporate various fire fighting mechanism in their respective institutions,” the Director General of Fire & Emergency said.
He said that the advisory has been also been issued to the general public to take more precautions while using the heating gadgets. “Over the years we have seen increase in fire incidents in Kashmir during the winter season. We suggest people that they should be more careful while using the winter gadgets,” he said.
Sources said that functioning with critical safety gaps including lack of functional Fire-fighting system, the threat of any untoward incident is looming large over the government hospitals as well as private hospitals in Jammu and Kashmir.
“Almost 80% of government-run hospitals as well as private hospitals do not have basic fire safety measures in place,” sources in the fire and emergency department said.
They said that in these government and private hospitals, deficiencies in compartmentalization to prevent spread of smoke and fire from one section to another, lack of smoke management system and unreliable fire management systems have been noticed.
Sources maintained that emergency exit gates in almost all hospitals in the state are locked. “Many gates and doors are locked in the government hospitals to better manage the crowd and ensure safety of the doctors and staff. But, it is at the cost of safety in case of fire,” said the sources. According to the officials in the fire department, in some hospitals using fire-safe doors was not according to the standards. “Apart from the locked gates, there were no water for fire-fighting measures, no emergency power supply and a dysfunctional public address system,” the sources pointed out.
It is to mention here that, the fire safety audit of the GP Panth Hospital Srinagar had pointed out that lives of children and newborns are at risk at the hospital as it lacks basic access points for fire engines besides falling short of other fire safety mechanisms.
“The infrastructure- and space-constrained hospital can become a “fire hazard”, as per the official communication by Fire and Emergency Services (FES) to the hospital authorities.
The letter dated 12-12-2015 by Director General Fire and Emergency Services, Kashmir points out at the encroachments in the GP Panth hospital premises “that are an impediment to the movement of the fire engines in case of a fire.”
“Unfortunately, the setbacks have been encroached by constructing medical shop and attendant sheds. This will disallow the movement of fire engine and will endanger the lives of innocent newborn buds (sic).”
Setbacks are mandatory passageways required for firefighting as per National Building Code for hospitals.
Sources said that Community Health Centres (CHC) in the state paint a similar picture.
Officials of the fire service department said, though they time and again advised the hospital authorities to keep sufficient fire safety equipment and conduct mock drills at regular intervals, but it has been found that no regular mock drill have been carried out to prepare the hospital staff to tackle such situation.
Sources said that the urgent need is a Fire safety audit at all government hospitals in district, sub-divisional level and medical colleges. The fire safety measures at places particularly with electrical installations should be reviewed.
“In most places, organizers and management of the hospitals install a few fire extinguishers in the name of fire safety. However, under Fire Prevention and Life Safety Measures Act this is not the only requirement,” sources said.
Sources added that there are many more things that they need to be done. “In many cases, when there is fire the emergency team doesn't even know how to operate a simple fire extinguisher leave aside other procedures, they added.
Sources said that in the congested areas, there is no space for fire tenders to reach the hospital building in case of fire.