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Thursday, January 19, 2012

40 hosps found violating fire safety norms

Mumbai: In an audit conducted after the Kolkata hospital blaze, the fire department has found that 40 hospitals in the city lack basic fire safety equipment. 

    Of the errant hospitals, 75% are private. The department also found four government and six BMC hospitals violating fire safety norms. Notices have already been issued and the hospitals are expected to comply within the next two months. 
    The fire department has found six major deficiencies in the hospitals which have been served the notice. Most hospitals have been found using LPG cylinders upstairs for canteen and laboratory purposes. While the fire safety norms mandate that there should be adequate free space, in its inspection, the department found corridors 
blocked with stretchers. An essential fire safety item – fire extinguishers and other fire fighting installations – were not found in most hospitals. Signswere not displayed properly. According to the fire department, most highrise hospitals have not appointed fire safety officers, who play an essential role in monitoring and maintaining fire safety equipment. 
    Beyond the six general observations, the fire department has also sent individual notices to all errant hospitals, highlighting the deficiencies in each one of them. Chief fire officer H N Muza
war told TOI, "We have inspected 67 hospitals. Almost all the hospitals had common problems like lack of proper passageway, no fire safety equipment. The hospitals have been asked to comply with all the deficiencies highlighted. There is no particular time period, but they would be expected to comply within the next two months." 
    Pramod Lele, CEO, Hinduja Hospital said, "We 
haven't received any such notice as yet. We do have all the fire safety equipment in place." 
    In an internal survey of city civic hospitals conducted just after the AMRI inferno, the fire department had found that all 16 hospitals had violated fire safety norms — ranging from missing or defunct safety equipment to storage of inflammable material in the basement, which fuelled the AMRI hospital inferno. The three major hospitals — KEM, Sion and Nair — did not have effective fire-safety apparatus. Staircases were found locked, electric wiring unsealed, and lifts out of order at Nair Hospital. The basement at Sion hospital was found to be used for offices and storage of scrap, while KEM Hospital's internal firefighting system was not functioning. 

'No candidates for fire safety officers' 

    The Maharashtra Fire Prevention and Safety Act mandates that the owners of hospitals with building height more than 30 m should appoint a dedicated fire officer. 
    According to the fire department, several hospitals have complained that it was not possible to appoint fire safety officers as there aren't enough qualified candidates. Hospitals have demanded that the fire department provides them with the fire safety officers, which the latter has rejected. 
    Chief fire officer H N Muzawar said, "Hospitals have been saying that they cannot appoint fire safety officers as there aren't enough qualified officers for this post, but it is not possible for us". ew hospitals, however, denied making such requests. For instance, Col B Khemani of Jaslok Hospital said they already have a fire safety official. Sources from Kokilaben Ambani Hospital at Andheri, too, said that they have fire safety guards to take care of contingencies. None of the public hospitals have fire officers. 
    Most city hospitals claimed they have not received any notice from the BMC but have initiated measures on their own. The spokesperson from a leading south Mumbai hospital said the hospital, through an internal audit, found they did not have any signs on the premises. "That was immediately fixed," the senior official said.— Shawan Sen & Sumitra Deb Roy


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