Frequent Hospital Fires during COVID Time in India- Cause and Way forward

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Synopsis – The hospital system in India has been overwhelmed by the heavy patient load and arrangement for the pandemic. It has increased their vulnerability to fire.

Introduction
  • Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic and mismanagement, the hospital system is becoming over stressed, resulting in frequent fire incidents.
  • Since last August, more than 93 people have died in 24 hospital fire incidents in India. The majority of them were Covid-19 patients.
Major reason behind frequent hospital fire in India despite fire checks and audits-
  • Electrical faults are cited as the leading cause of fires –
    • Overheated ICU’s and ACs- In most hospitals, to meet the current COVID-19 situation, medical equipment or wires are in use beyond their capacity. It is overheating the electrical wiring system, causing the fire.
    • Short circuit or overloading due to continuous running ACs in hospitals.
  • Mismanagement in hospital – Placing more ICU beds in limited space also makes it more vulnerable to fire spread.
  • Lack of cross-ventilation – Hospital ICUs (for COVID-19) are at significant fire risk because they remain sealed for the purpose of keeping them sterile.
  • Highly inflammable material in Hospitals- sanitizer spills and vapor, higher oxygen content in the air, and PPE kits made of synthetic materials all contribute to the rapid spread of fire.
What to do to reduce fire accidents in hospitals?
  • All states need to carry out proper fire and electrical audits of dedicated COVID-19 hospitals in order to reduce the frequent cases.
  • As the health sector expands to accommodate pandemic arrangements, it is essential that all new facilities and plans meet safety standards such as-
    • Cross-ventilation in ICUs – There is a requirement of proper ventilation passage in ICUs to allow fumes an outlet.
    • Keeping electrical equipment for ACs away from oxygen-saturated areas will reduce the risk.
    • Fire safety drills- Hospitals should mandatorily hold regular fire safety and evacuation drills.
    • Hospitals must install sprinklers, which start dispensing water [35 liters per minute] as the temperature increases above 78 °C.
    • There must be installation of fire extinguishers in temporary hospitals. A fire truck must also get stationed outside hospitals in the event of a major disaster.

Source- The Indian Express

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