There seems to be no respite from fire accidents in Andhra Pradesh, particularly in Visakhapatnam. Most of them are major fire mishaps snuffing out precious lives and grievously injuring hundreds. The latest one at COVID Care Center is run by Swarna Palace Hotel in Vijayawada wherein 10 people lost their lives. One of the victims was charred to death and while the remaining nine died of asphyxiation.
Fire mishaps in the city are no longer confined to the industrial units but are taking place in busy areas such as in hospitals, ATMs, commercial establishments, and shops. Lots of apartments, hospitals, cinema halls, and malls are violating the rules and regulations and we are seeing many fire mishaps mainly due to a lack of fire and safety measures. But there were also cases of gas leakages in houses and industrial units in the pharma SEZ. The main reason for these frequent accidents is laxity on the part of establishment owners as well as law enforcement authorities, right from GVMC to fire safety department.
Speaking exclusively to Hello Vizag, Fire safety Consultant B Madhu said the less obvious ‘system’ or ‘organizational’ reason for an adverse mishap happening, the hazard has not been adequately considered via a suitable and sufficient risk assessment or otherwise. Our rules and regulations are very strong on paper but lack of implementation in letter and spirit. The role of statutory bodies like Fire and emergency services, Pollution Control, Factories Dept has to be considerably improved to minimize accidents. Many buildings/ industrial units are showing complacency in abiding rules and no action is taken against them. When a problem arises, then the Dept officials state that they do not comply with regulations. This is a serious concern.
Stating further Mr. Madhu said “there is also no coordination between Government departments in clearly specifying the norms to comply. Establishments are taking COVID 19 as a business venture and are doing all types of wrong things. When a hotel is converted to a hospital, it has to comply with all the regulations of fire safety, electrical, and NABH regulations. Unfortunately, permissions are given without inspection and when an accident occurs, the blame game goes on. It is the same fire department, which has allowed the hotel to function all these years. (Vijayawada incident)”
“Until and unless professional third-party audits are done, matters will not come to light and merely constituting committees and Govt officers go on inspection, truth doesn’t come out. They are not for the job but to govern. Insurance also plays an important role, as the owners should clearly inform insurance companies on change of business (when decided to change the hotel to COVID center) and get suitable policies, which include all visitors/ patients get covered. Also, the new owner should do vice versa and take additional policies as deemed fit. There is a lack of understanding business, profession and ultimately the common man is made the scapegoat” said Mr. Madhu.
Experts opine that cause of the accidents is caring too hoots to fire safety norms. As usual, after every fire accident, the district administration wakes up and realizes the importance to form committees for inspections regarding inadequacies and gross negligence on the part of violators. The question in everybody’s mind is why you close the stable door after the horse is bolted? After all whose responsibility is this? Is it GVMC or District Fire Office? After all, how much is too much? Of course, it is willful negligence on the part of violators but is it not a dereliction of duty on the part of government officials who need to inspect from time to time and take stringent action against the willful violators?
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