Do we ever check for the fire safety on hospitals before we admit someone or if we are visiting there for a consultation? It is unlikely, as we are already in an emergency while we visit a hospital, fire safety is the last thing anyone would have in mind.
Hospital safety and its importance
Most fire-related hazards are caused due to carelessness and improper handling of goods. One of the places where it is difficult to evacuate people in case of a fire breakout is a hospital. Evacuating people from hospitals during a fire hazard is challenging because it involves moving patients who are immobile and are unable to help themselves.
The real challenge is evacuating high dependency people before the fire spreads in the vicinity. Therefore, it is important that hospitals and other health care centers have adequate fire prevention and safety measures in place. Prevention is the key in the case of fire-related accidents especially when places like hospitals are concerned. Every hospital must have well-planned exit ways and well-maintained firefighting equipment to ward off the casualties and damage to assets.
By ensuring fire safety in hospitals, we can prevent fire accidents. Hospitals stack a lot of combustible materials like chemicals, cylinders, surgical equipment, etc. And many hospitals also have an inbuilt kitchen or canteen. A fire accident may have a lot of casualties as the fire may become uncontrollable in minutes. So, the hospital management should ensure that their buildings are fire safe all the times.
Some of the worst fire accidents in Hospitals in India
1. AMRI Hospital, Kolkata
On December 2011, a major fire accident at AMRI hospital in Kolkata killed 95 people. The main cause of this mishap was an electrical short circuit and stocking of combustible substances in the basement. This was a case of negligence by the management of the hospital. During the incident, the hospital had around 160 patients and also many staff members. At least 50 patients were there in the intensive ward.
October 17, 2016, we saw one of the worst fire accidents in IMS & SUM Hospital, Bhubaneswar. 22 were killed and 120 were injured. In this case, the hospital staff tried to douse the fire with fire extinguishers and in this process, they lost almost 20 crucial minutes before they called the fire department. This shows the lack of preparedness of the hospital staff during emergencies.
3. Rohini Super specialty hospital in Hanamkonda
On October 17, 2017, an electrical short-circuit triggered a fire in Rohini super specialty hospital in Hanamkonda, Telangana. 199 patients were admitted to this hospital at the time of the accident. Two patients died and four were injured. The hospital’s fire safety system did not work during this crucial time. Everyone including the doctors and hospital staff was in a state of panic and did not know how to respond.
4. MY Hospital Indore
The lives of 47 newborn babies were in danger when a fire broke on November 4, 2017, at MY Hospital, Indore. Fortunately, there was no loss of life. But, it is alleged that the hospital has been flouting fire safety laws.*
In all the cases, the fire safety laws have been violated.
What are the best ways to prevent fire accidents in hospitals?
Preventive measures to reduce fire risks in hospitals are different from the fire safety measures adopted in other places such as schools, office, and industries. A hospital has many combustible substances, chemicals, and gases, heat dissipating equipment, and electrical wiring, which can lead to a serious fire accident if appropriate safety measures are not observed.
Adequate fire prevention methods must be designed and developed including the fixed evacuation points, fire equipment and regular maintenance of electrical equipment to prevent a fire hazard.
Here is a list of preventive measures to reduce fire risks in hospitals:
1. Architecture and layout
The design and architecture can prove as a turning point in case of a fire breakout. A hospital’s architecture planner must make sure that there is ample of open space in the building to minimize the possibilities of spreading fire in the entire building. Pressurized exclusion of smoke must be a priority while planning the architecture of a hospital.
2. Fire safety plan
Every member of the hospital must be aware of a well-charted and detailed action plan which everyone needs to follow in case of a fire breakout. Fire drills must be carried out on a regular basis to make sure that hospital staff including doctors must know how to respond during emergency situations.
3. Fire detection equipment
Fire detection is the first step towards preventing fire hazards. Hospitals must have fire detection equipment such as heat detector, smoke detector, fire gas detector, flame detector, etc installed at important locations. Not only the installation of fire detection equipment is essential, it must also be ensured that these devices are working properly by checking them on a timely basis.
4. Prohibiting smoking to reduce chances of fire
Hospital authorities must ban smoking inside the premises of the hospital, especially near oxygen cylinders. This will significantly reduce the chances of fire outbreak.
5. Fire audit survey
Hospitals can seek help from professional bodies for conducting fire safety audits to make sure that the adequate fire prevention measures are observed in the hospital. If the authority recommends any changes, it should be implemented diligently.
6. Maintenance of electrical wiring and equipment
Faulty wiring systems can be a cause of fire outbreak. To prevent fires from electrical equipment, maintenance must be carried out at least once in a month and other electrical equipment that can lead to fire hazard must also be properly maintained.