Why in the News?


Recently, a fire broke out in New Born Baby care hospital in Delhi, leading to the death of seven babies. This unfortunate incident has highlighted the importance of implementing safety measures in hospitals and the necessity for accountability in these vital institutions.


Potential Causes of Fire in Hospitals in India


  • Electrical Overloading and Faulty Wiring: Due to increasing patient numbers, hospitals’ electrical systems often become overstressed, causing overloading and overheating of wiring. This is particularly dangerous in ICUs, where a high concentration of electrical equipment can ignite fires.
  • Oxygen Enrichment: Oxygen, especially in ICUs, can exacerbate fires. Oxygen-enriched environments intensify fires, making them harder to control.
  • Lack of Cross-Ventilation: Insufficient cross-ventilation in ICUs, particularly noted in regions like Gujarat, contributes to fire spread by allowing the buildup of flammable materials and hindering containment efforts.
  • Flammable Materials: Flammable substances such as sanitiser vapours, high oxygen levels, and synthetic PPE kits can accelerate fire spread, reducing response time.
  • Smoking: Despite bans, smoking continues to be a significant fire hazard in hospitals. Improperly extinguished cigarettes and matches can easily ignite fires.
  • Overcrowding and Poor Housekeeping: Overcrowded hospitals, particularly ICUs, facilitate rapid fire spread. Poor housekeeping, including waste accumulation and clutter, also increases fire risk.
  • Lack of Fire and Electrical Safety Audits: The absence of regular fire and electrical safety audits allows potential fire hazards and electrical issues to go undetected.
  • Inadequate Fire Safety Measures: A lack of fire safety measures, such as alarms, sprinkler systems, and extinguishers, hampers early detection and effective fire response.
  • Staff Training and Awareness: Insufficient training and awareness among hospital staff regarding fire safety and prevention result in unpreparedness during fire emergencies.
  • Infrastructure and Maintenance: Neglect in maintaining hospital infrastructure, including electrical systems and equipment, raises the likelihood of fires.
  • Lack of Mock Fire Drills: The absence of regular fire drills in hospitals means staff are unprepared for fire emergencies. This lack of practice can lead to confusion and slow response times during an actual fire, increasing the risk of injury and property damage.


Fire Safety Measures in place in India


  • National Building Code of India (NBC): The NBC, issued by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), serves as India’s main framework for fire safety regulations. It outlines fire prevention, life safety, and fire protection requirements in buildings, detailing occupancy classifications, construction aspects, and protection features to reduce fire-related risks to life and property.
  • Fire Prevention and Firefighting Services: In India, fire prevention and firefighting services are managed by the respective states, Union Territories (UTs), and Urban Local Bodies (ULBs). These services are essential for timely responses to fire incidents and ensuring people’s and property’s safety.
  • Model Building Bye-Laws: According to the Model Building Bye-Laws, the Chief Fire Officer is responsible for granting fire clearances. The Development Authority must submit building plans to the Chief Fire Officer for approval, ensuring compliance with fire safety standards and regulations.
  • National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) Guidelines: The NDMA guidelines establish fire safety requirements for public buildings, including hospitals. They provide design standards for maintaining minimum open spaces, exit mechanisms, staircases, and evacuation drills, which are crucial for occupant safety during a fire emergency.
  • Regular Maintenance and Inspections: Regular building maintenance, safe waste disposal, and periodic electrical system inspections are vital for preventing fire incidents. Ensuring proper grounding, wiring, and ventilation reduces the risk of electrical fires and the accumulation of flammable gases.
  • Fire Safety Equipment: Installing and maintaining smoke detectors, heat detectors, fire alarm systems, fire extinguishers, automatic sprinkler systems, and fire hydrant and hose reel systems are essential for building fire safety. These systems help detect fires early and enable timely response and evacuation.
  • Fire Safety Training: Providing fire safety training for employees and occupants, conducting regular fire drills, and raising awareness about fire safety signs, evacuation procedures, exit signs, and fire extinguisher locations are critical for ensuring preparedness and effective response in fire emergencies.


Challenges in Enforcing Fire Safety Regulations


  • Lack of Awareness and Enforcement: A significant challenge in enforcing fire safety regulations in India is the general lack of awareness and inadequate enforcement. Many people are not well-informed about fire safety measures, and regulations are often not properly enforced.
  • Complexity in Handling High-Rise Building Fires: Fires in high-rise buildings, particularly residential ones, present unique challenges. The complexity of salvage operations and the difficulty of rescues often lead to fatalities and substantial property damage.
  • Rapid Modernization and Lack of Awareness: The rapid modernisation of Indian industries has complicated the fire safety landscape, with awareness about fire safety lagging behind. The changing nature of industrial activities and infrastructure adds to the difficulty in ensuring compliance with fire safety standards.
  • Lack of Uniform Legislation: Despite the high incidence of fire accidents in India, there is no consistent national legislation on fire safety. This lack of uniform regulations hampers effective enforcement and compliance with fire safety norms nationwide.
  • Natural and Climatic Causes: Natural weather conditions such as lightning and extreme heat with low humidity can ignite fires in urban areas. These climatic factors pose significant challenges to fire prevention and management.
  • Absence of Smoke Management and Emergency Lighting: The lack of effective smoke management systems and emergency lighting in high-rise buildings exacerbates fire risks. Inadequate smoke control and emergency lighting can hinder safe evacuation during a fire.
  • Lack of Vulnerability Mapping: Poor regulation and enforcement of the National Building Code and the absence of vulnerability analysis in building construction contribute to the frequency of urban fires. The lack of proper vulnerability assessments affects the preparedness, response, and recovery from fire incidents.


Measures needed to strengthen fire safety in India


  • Enact Comprehensive Fire Safety Legislation: India requires robust, uniform fire safety laws at the national level to ensure consistent enforcement across all states and union territories. These laws should clearly outline the roles, responsibilities, and accountability of building owners, occupants, and authorities in implementing and maintaining fire safety measures.
  • Strengthen Fire Safety Audits and Inspections: Mandatory, regular fire safety audits and inspections should be conducted for all buildings, particularly high-risk ones such as hospitals, schools, and high-rises. These audits should assess compliance with fire safety codes, identify hazards, and recommend corrective actions, with penalties for non-compliance.
  • Improve Fire Safety Infrastructure and Equipment: Invest in modernising and expanding fire services across states, ensuring adequate fire stations, vehicles, and equipment. Under NBC standards, all buildings should be equipped with functional fire safety systems, including alarms, sprinklers, and extinguishers.
  • Enhance Awareness and Training: Implement public awareness campaigns to educate on fire safety practices and evacuation drills. Provide regular training for fire service personnel, building staff, and occupants on fire prevention and response strategies.
  • Strict Enforcement and Penalties: Fire safety codes should be rigorously enforced during construction approvals and occupancy permits. Violators should be punished severely, and cases of negligence that lead to fire incidents should be prosecuted.
  • Streamline Coordination: Improve coordination between fire services, urban planning authorities, and disaster management agencies. Integrate fire safety considerations into urban planning and development processes.
  • Continuous Improvement: Regularly review and update fire safety codes and guidelines to address emerging risks and incorporate best practices. Research fire safety and adopt innovations in materials, systems, and procedures.


Download Yojna daily current affairs eng med 27th May 2024


Prelims Based Question


Q1. Consider the following statements regarding Fire safety in India:

  1. Fire services is a state Subject.
  2. The National Building Code is the main framework for fire safety regulations in India.

Choose the correct answer using the codes given below:

(a). 1 Only

(b). 2 Only

(c). Both 1 and 2

(d). Neither 1 nor 2




Mains Based Question


Q1. Fire incidents have been on the rise at vital places such as Hospitals. Discuss the potential reasons for such numerous fire incidents and explain why present safety regulations in India are not very effective.


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