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“Veni, Vidi, Vici”. This could be a good phrase for an old Roman Emperor. But Fire! Oh! it just comes and conquers. It doesn't see. It destroys everything including the fire fighting system. That is what happened in a hospital. The fire cordon party of that day, sneaked out and was watching a movie “Towering Inferno’ in the nearby Video Parlour, when the fire broke out in the hospital ward. There was shaky, delayed defence by a few personnel including some of the fire fighting party, fire salvage party and the fire rescue party. The patients ran away. Some of them joined the fire fighting bravados. Nothing could be salvaged even by the salvage party. By the time, the fire cordon party, after their instant graduation into combat on inferno in a multistoreyed building came back from the thrilling block buster, the single storeyed ward complex was gutted into a heap of ash. What remained was a few charred cots in alignment with the Nightingale ward and a liberated fire ball on the corridor from its weak suspension.
Fire fighting works only in well directed movies and well rehearsed hospitals. When the fire broke out, it was noticed a little too late by a patient who managed to run away along with other patients. Then the staff moved out, looking for the siren. They were not sure about its location. Their shouting of “aag-aag” was not intense enough to arouse any enthusiasm among the staff in other wards and departments. The fire point of the ward itself was on fire. By the time the fire fighting force assembled and gathered the equipment, the fire had got into its irreversible momentum. They watched the inferno in total helplessness keeping away from the flames, while the fire cordon witnessed the ultimate success in fire fighting at the Video Parlour.
In many a time, hospital fire fighting ends up in a ‘flop’ mainly because of poor direction. There are water wells which are dry. Sand heaps are used up for landscaping. Hydrants have no pressure. The canvas hoses don't reach upto the wards. The locations of the minor and major fire points are unknown to the staff. The equipment are not tested for functional status. The earmarked persons disappear in thin air. The drill movements are unclear. There are no rehearsals.
A meaningful fire practice system can be evolved only when the whole organisation is oriented to the hazards of fire and administrators understand it. The conventional system of fire fighting will continue to stay with the Armed Forces for many more years till the multistoreyed modern hospitals would come up. They would have fire sensing system with automatic early warning connected to a multiactivator that would release alarm, open up emergency exits, move the elevators and extinguish the fire. That is far away. Till then, let us activate our own existing system and save our patients and ourselves. Fire creates panic, releases poison and bakes people.