When the second wave of the pandemic was at its peak, as many as 13 patients died after a fire broke out in the intensive care unit of Bharuch Welfare Hospital, Gujarat. According to a report by Indian Express, almost 24 fire accidents have happened since August 2020 resulting in the death of 93 people, mostly COVID patients. Among these 93 deaths, 59 deaths have happened in March and April only, in which 33 deaths were reported from Maharashtra while the remaining 21 are from Gujarat (as of 31st May 2021). This is a saddening reality where people who are already suffering are not spared by the fire incidents.
Sandeep Goel, Chairman, Innovation & Excellence, FSAI says, “In the situation of a Pandemic, the challenge is to organize and plan any medical facility requires a proper planning. While COVID-19 facilities are an essential, we often create make-shift arrangements which are seen to create a sense of pseudo support and compromised safety arrangements and actually defeat the purpose of providing the facilities. The most important thing is the blueprint of the planning. The layout should be done properly with the right space planning, segregation of areas according to the uses and hazard etc. Fire safety is basically divided into three parts, i.e., Fire prevention, Life safety and fire protection. If we are not able to complete these requirements holistically in the design planning, we are at risk of the Occupants and the facility to witness the consequences of this failure.”
Major problem arose as most of the newer facilities created to handle increasing number of sick people were makeshift. Created in a rush, the facilities lacked proper planning and there were little to no means of fire protection.
Ar Sabeena Khanna, Founder & Principal Architect, Studio KIA, says, “The impact and extent of the pandemic has struck hard, and humanity is left unawares. The medical system fell through because the numbers were too large and sudden. Hospital facilities were too less and cases too many. Hence, COVID-19 facilities were set up almost overnight and ranged from quickly put together hospitals to makeshift medical facilities, remodeled spaces, temporary sheds with equipment, tented arrangements to even provision of oxygen in cars, to supplement the existing medical infrastructure.”
THE MENACE OF AIRCONDITIONING AND EXCESSIVE USE OF PLASTIC
An important aspect that leads to increase in fire incidents is the poor air conditioning and excessive use of plastic while there is no arrangement for a proper disposal. In no less than two fire incidents, i.e., Vijay Vallabh Hospital in Virar that led to 15 deaths and Ayush Hospital, Surat that killed 3, the fire began from an overheated air conditioner that was working since 24 hrs. Therefore, it is important to install either a backup AC or ‘Air Handling units’ that are capable of taking air from atmosphere, reconditioning it, cooling or heating as required, and circulate it within a building or a section of the building through ducts.
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Hospitals Under Fire - How Ready Are We?
Recently, we have seen many incidents of fire, particularly happening in the hospitals that are already overburdened with a pandemic raging at hand. A fire has no face and no regret while destroying everything that comes in its way. It becomes even more heart-wrenching when patients who cannot save themselves come under its wrath. SURFACES REPORTER spoke to the experts and tried to ascertain, why the fire incidents rose and what should be done so that in case of the third wave the mistakes are not repeated. An indepth report by SURFACES REPORTER (SR).
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