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Friday, December 9, 2011

CITY SITTING ON TIME-BOMB: Experts Say Kolkata Fire Should Be Wake-Up Call

Most hosps not ready to HANDLE DISASTER


 Most city hospitals may not be fully prepared to handle a disaster of the magnitude of Friday's Kolkata hospital blaze. While the fire brigade admitted it does not carry out regular checks, officials said most hospitals are ill-equipped and do not follow safety norms. 

    Blame it on the absence of regular audits and drills by the fire department or the hospitals' greed for space, but experts said Mumbai too is sitting on a time-bomb and the Kolkata fire should be a wake-up call. Even as rescuing patients is one of the most difficult tasks, officials said they are unable to carry out regular checks. 
    The fire safety rules, under the development control regulations, applying to any commercial, industrial or residential facility, are for hospital buildings too. It means a mandatory open space of 6m, adequate parking space, fire safety signages and a fire evacuation plan; a mandatory NoC is provided by the Mumbai Fire Brigade. 
    "We can only act on complaints as we do not have enough manpower. When we receive complaints that rules are being flouted, we carry out a check and send notices. After that it is the hospital's duty to ensure they follow fire safety norms," said an official. 

    Officials also said most hospitals, even those providing high-end super-specialty treatment, do not adhere to basic norms. Following an inspection of Lilavati Hospital at 11 am on January 20, 2009, technical experts appointed by the state government to assess the adequacy of fire and safety norms 
found it wanting. 

The hospital, with 2.8 lakh sq ft of built-up 
area, has basic fire-fighting equipment in place, but the Merani committee found the car parking basement was being misused and open space was restricted by obstructions. "These are amenable to danger and accessible for damage and sabotage," the committee report said. The hospital also lacked fire safety signages and an effective evacuation plan. 
    M V Deshmukh, director, Maharashtra Fire Services, said the fire department is the authority and it has to carry out random inspections and scrutiny. "Any building, except for residential buildings below 15m, is supposed to get a certificate from registered, licenced fire agencies in January and July to certify the health of fire safety equipment. The Maharashtra Fire Prevention and Life Safety Measures Act, 2006, 
has provisions for violations; it is a cognizable, non-bailable offence with up to three years imprisonment," Deshmukh said. 
    C o n g re s s c o r p o r at o r Sameer Desai said the civic administration 
had to conduct regular audits and drills. "When the agency incharge does not keep a check, how are institutions expected to? The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) should conduct an immediate wardwise survey of h o s p i t a l s, malls and industrial estates," he said.

LESSON FOR MUMBAI? A crowd watches rescue operations outside AMRI hospital that caught fire in Kolkata on Friday

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