June 2, 2024

Fire safety measures at Delhi hospital questioned


NEW DELHI: Fire safety in Delhi hospitals has come under scrutiny following the tragic accident at Baby Care Hospital as a surge in fire incidents calls for urgent measures.

The tragic deaths of seven babies at an infant hospital in Delhi’s Vivek Vihar area have raised concerns about fire safety in the city’s hospitals. Delhi Fire Service (DFS) officials believe the cause of the blaze may have been a short circuit, but investigations revealed that the hospital had blocked the second exit and its firefighting equipment was not in working order.

DFS director Atul Garg told The Sunday Guardian that a delay in raising the warning at DFS caused the fire to intensify. He added that a delay of around 30 minutes in calling firefighters made the situation worse. According to the DFS, 55 people have been killed and more than 300 injured in fires in the capital so far this year, with the number of fire-related calls increasing by 32%.

The national capital Delhi is suffering from a surge in fire-related incidents due to soaring temperatures. 2024 has witnessed a remarkable surge in fire incidents, surpassing the records of the last decade. Over 8,000 fire calls have been reported so far in May, with the Delhi Fire Service (DFS) reporting its highest ever number of fire-related calls in a 24-hour period on Wednesday, May 29. The DFS received 220 calls, the highest number in the last decade. According to Atul Garg, director of DFS, the heatwave in Delhi last week has led to a surge in fire calls. “Fires are occurring due to short circuits caused by overheating electrical appliances,” he added.

Delhi Health Minister Saurabh Bhardwaj has ordered an audit of the hospital’s fire, but fire officials said they were yet to receive an official communication from the state government.

According to official data, DFS has issued fire NOC (No Objection Certificate) to 196 hospitals, which is much less than the number of registered hospitals in the city. The main purpose of fire NOC is to ensure that the building or premises complies with fire safety norms. It certifies that the structure has adequate fire safety measures, firefighting equipment and evacuation plans in place. There are around 30 government-run hospitals and 12 MCD-run hospitals in Delhi and DFS regularly conducts fire audits of these hospitals and private hospitals have to apply for NOC. Fire audits of government facilities are done by DFS and private facilities have to apply for NOC. However, there is no strict law making it mandatory to obtain fire NOC. Hence, many small businesses have been ignoring fire safety norms.

Considering the deadly fire incidents that have occurred in Delhi in the past, many of these buildings did not have a fire NOC and were circumventing fire safety norms. As per rules, all buildings including residential, commercial, industrial and public establishments are required to have a fire NOC. Hospitals, schools, hotels, shopping malls, offices and other public places fall under this requirement, but many buildings still lack such safety audits.

After each incident, the Delhi Police filed FIRs, made arrests and filed chargesheets against those responsible. However, the deterrent effect has been minimal, and fires continue to cause loss of life. For example, in the case of the Alpit Hotel fire in Karol Bagh, the hotel owner was charged with negligence resulting in death and destruction of evidence, among other offences. However, slow trials and the defendants’ release on bail obstructed justice. Similarly, arrests were made in the Bawana Factory fire, but they were later released on bail, allowing the accused to continue operating another firecracker factory in Haryana.

“Delhi’s unauthorised settlements and industrial areas have become virtual flashpoints due to rampant violations of fire safety norms. These fire incidents highlight the urgent need for proactive measures, strict enforcement and collective efforts to prevent further tragedies. The city must learn from past mistakes and make fire safety a top priority to protect lives and property.”


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