Most hospitals lack fire safety measures

Tk 386cr lost in 19,642 fire incidents last year

Firoz Al Mamum and Rashidul Hasan

20th February, 2019 10:17:03 printer

Most of the public and private hospitals in the capital lack fire safety measures, endangering the lives and property.

The hospitals, which do not have fire safety arrangements, may turn into a death trap for patients and hospital employees if a fire breaks out there, sources said.

The grim picture of firefighting measures at important healthcare centres came to the fore of discussion after the recent fire incident at Suhrawardy Medical College Hospital (ShMCH) in the capital.

A child patient died during evacuation of several hundred people from ShMCH due to the fire.

Patients of ShMCH were evacuated and shifted to Dhaka Medical College Hospital and other healthcare centres after the fire incident, causing immense sufferings for ailing people and their relatives.

The Fire Service and Civil Defense (FSCD) on Wednesday disclosed that 98 percent of the country’s hospitals are at fire risk.

The firefighting body carried out a survey on 433 hospitals and clinics under Dhaka metropolitan area between January 12 and January 26 in 2017.

Of the hospitals and clinics, 173 fall under very risky category in terms of fire safety while 249 are under risky category, said Maj AKM Shakil Newaj, director (operation and maintenance) of Fire Service and Civil Defense.

According to him, the fire management condition in 11 others is satisfactory.

The fire service department conducted another-follow up survey between October 26 and November 12 in 2017. It found nearly the same condition of the hospitals and clinics regarding the fire safety measures.

The follow-up survey found that 105 hospitals and clinics were very risky while 311 risky and only seven institutions had satisfactory status among 423 surveyed hospitals and clinics under Dhaka Metropolitan, Maj Shakil said.

He came with the information at a view-exchange meeting arranged by Bangladesh Fire Service and Civil Defence with representatives of more than 400 hospitals in the capital at the headquarters of the force at Kazi Alauddin road in Fulbaria on Wednesday.

The survey of FSCD found some agents, including smoking, candle light, mosquito coil, electrical establishment, interior decoration with flammable objects, unplanned store, kitchen, laundry and boiler, which may cause fire incidents.

During the meeting with director general of FSCD Brig Gen Ali Ahmed Khan, the hospital and clinics representatives shared their challenges and placed some demands to the fire fighting body for fighting fire incidents.

Speakers said despite having fire extinguishers and other fire fighting equipment in many buildings, inhabitants do not have knowledge of how to operate them. Many even do not know drawing design of hospitals, including exit gates, fire exits or emergency exits a hospital has and how to evacuate patients and attendees during any emergency situation, they said.

They sought a guideline from FSDC in form of a booklet and training of hospitals staff and other necessary education, including mock drill.

Speaking at the view exchange meeting, the fire fighting body chief instructed the hospital authorities to form a dedicated fire safety team to fight fire and another team with local level volunteers.

He said, “Though it is difficult to maintain safety measure for old hospital, such infrastructures developed without maintaining fire safety measure. But we cannot compromise with fire safety.”

He also put emphasis on clearing basement of hospital, keeping water reservoir, keeping a separate block for electronic establishments, keeping emergency fire exit gates assembly area, keeping fire alarm and detection system and.

He also assured the attendees of hospital concerned of providing training to them.

Joint secretary and director (admin and finance) of FSCD Md Habibur Rahman and deputy secretary of security service division of home ministry Md Aminul Islam were also present.

Representatives of Shaheed Suhrawardy Medical College Hospital, Sir Salimullah Medical College, National Institute of Traumatology and Orthopaedic Rehabilitation, National Institute of Mental Health and Hospital, National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases and Labaid shared their challenges.

A report of FSCD says 85,613 fire, road and factory accidents and natural calamities took place last year causing death of 16,156 people and numberless injured. Around 78,354 people were rescued.

Of those, 19,642 were fire accidents across the country that caused a loss to the tune of Tk 385.77 crore.

The number of fire incidents caused by faulty cooker and cylinder was 3,449 (18 percent; electric short circuit  7,825 (39 percent); cigarette 3,108 (15 percent; electric light in open place 625 (3 percent; heated cinder 667 (3 percent); play with fire by children 589 (3 percent), collision of parts 315 (1.5 percent); setting fire or sabotage 144 (0.7 percent) and 257 (1 percent);  chemical reaction 34 (0.17 percent); forest fire 53 (0.7 percent), problem at ship 35 (0.18 percent) and plane 4 (0.2 percent).

Fire incidents were 37 causing loss of Tk 2,15,20,000 in Dhaka; three causing loss of Tk 1,50,00,000 in Chattogram; 23 causing loss of Tk 80,48,000 in Rajshahi; 34 causing loss of Tk 87,85,761 in Khulna; two causing loss of Tk 72,00,000 in Barishal; eight causing loss of Tk 1,88,250 in Rangpur; and six causing loss of Tk 33,75,000 in Mymensingh. However, no fire incident was reported in Sylhet last year.

Around 130 people were killed in fire incident across the country last year. Of them, 47 people were killed in fire in Dhaka, eight in Chattogram, 10 in Rajshahi, two in Khulna, one in Barishal, 60 in Rangpur and two in Mymensingh.

However, the FSCD is very serious about fire incidents in hospitals, educational institutions, shopping mall and other public places.

Talking to the daily sun, director general of FSCD Ali Ahmed Khan said the firefighting measures in the hospitals are not satisfactory and hospital authorities have not executed FSCD’s directives and suggestions. If the hospital authorities continue to ignore directive of the FSCD, they will face action, he added.