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Building Safer Hospitals: Fire safety

Growing incidences of fire in hospitals are a wake-up call for hospital management which needs to ensure that proper fire management criteria are followed without fail

Fire accidents at hospitals have become alarmingly common in India. Despite precautions, fire accidents occur  leaving many devastating effects. Even though there are fire safety measures in place and rescue teams reach on time, lives cannot always be saved. In recent years, there have been several devastating hospital fires in India, resulting in loss of life and injury to patients, staff, and visitors. More than 100 people lost their lives to hospital fire incidents between August 2020 and April 2022, according to media reports.

It’s important for hospitals to regularly assess their fire safety measures and take corrective actions where necessary to ensure the safety of patients and staff. Additionally, hospitals must keep up-to-date with the latest fire safety guidelines and regulations to ensure compliance.

Fire incidence at Indian hospitals
Unfortunately, there have been several hospital fire incidents in India in recent years. Some of the common causes of hospital fires in India include electrical malfunctions, poor maintenance of equipment and facilities, and human error.

2022 Jabalpur, MP: In August 2022, a fire broke out at New Life Multispeciality Hospital in Jabalpur, resulting in the  death of eight patients and injuring five others. The fire was caused by a short circuit in an air conditioning unit.

2021 Bharuch city: In May 2021, a fire broke out at Patel Welfare Hospital, a COVID-19 facility, in Bharuch city, in Gujarat, leading to the death of 16 patients and two staff members. The fire was caused by a short circuit in the ICU.

2018 Mumbai: In December 2018, a fire broke out at ESIC Kamgar Hospital

Mumbai, causing several patients to be evacuated and leading to the death of five people. The fire was caused bysparks due to welding.

These incidents serve as a reminder of the importance of fire safety in hospitals and the need for regular fire safety audits and evacuation drills.

Cause of fire accidents at hospitals

There has been a growing body of research on recent fire accidents at hospitals, with a focus on understanding
the causes of these incidents and developing strategies to prevent them.

Some of these are:

• Electrical malfunctions: One of the most common causes of hospital fires is electrical malfunctions, including
short circuits and the overloading of electrical systems. Experts recommend regular electrical safety inspections and maintenance of electrical systems to prevent these types of incidents.
• Human error: Another common cause of hospital fires is human error, including improper storage and use
of flammable materials and failure to follow fire safety procedures. Research has recommended regular training for hospital staff on fire safety procedures, as well as implementing fire safety protocols and monitoring systems to ensure compliance.
• Building design and construction: The design and construction of hospital buildings can also contribute to the risk of fire. It is recommended to use fire-resistant materials and implement fire suppression systems in hospitals to prevent the spread of fire.
• Emergency response plans: Effective emergency response plans are critical for ensuring the safety of patients,
staff, and visitors during a fire. Experts say that hospitals conduct regular fire drills and that emergency response
plans should be regularly reviewed and updated to ensure they are effective.

• Patient safety: Ensuring the safety of patients during a fire is of utmost importance. It is recommended that
 hospitals have in place evacuation plans for patients, and that staff are trained on how to safely evacuate patients during a fire.

While many hospitals in India have taken steps to implement fire safety measures, there is still room for
improvement in terms of compliance and enforcement of these measures. In recent years, there have been several incidents of hospital fires in India, which have highlighted the need for stricter adherence to fire safety regulations and standards. As a result, the government and other stakeholders have taken steps to improve fire safety in hospitals, such as increasing fire safety inspections, conducting fire safety training for hospital staff, and updating building codes and regulations.

However, there are still many hospitals in India that may not fully comply with fire safety measures, and there may be a lack of resources, expertise, or political will to enforce these measures.

This highlights the need for continued efforts to improve fire safety in hospitals and to ensure that all hospitals
in India have the necessary resources and support to implement effective fire safety measures.

These findings highlight the need for ongoing efforts to improve fire safety in hospitals, and for continued research and collaboration between stakeholders to develop effective strategies for preventing hospital fires and ensuring the safety of patients, staff, and visitors.

Box: Experts Talk
Sarvodaya Hospital in Faridabad has taken a comprehensive approach to fire safety measures to ensure the safety of all its patients and staff. The hospital’s commitment to fire safety measures is an excellent example of responsible healthcare practice that prioritises the safety of patients and staff above all else
Rakesh Gupta, Chairman, Sarvodaya Hospital, Faridabad
Fire being the biggest enemy of mankind, we are continuously and extensively working on the must-fire safety principles of Prevention, Detection, Communication, Evacuation and Containment to prevent any possible fire-related events and to manage the impact related to such incidents. Our Fire Safety Officers ensure that everyone in the hospital from the security to the CEO is compulsorily Fire trained for a minimum of 20 hours a year
Anoop Lawrence, Sr GM Operation, Global Hospitals , Mumbai


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