The firefighting authorities had requested the hospital to upgrade their firefighting system and make several other changes
Fire Service officials are saying said that they had warned Shaheed Suhrawardy Medical College and Hospital three times, immediately before a devastating fire gutted a part of a building and led to an emergency evacuation, that their firefighting capabilities were woefully limited.
The firefighting authorities had requested the hospital to upgrade their firefighting system and make several other changes. Eventually Fire Service issued a letter, it would not take any responsibilities in case of fire incidents, since the hospital had not paid heed to repeated warnings.
According to Fire Service sources, they had inspected the hospital on November 16, 2017. They found a number of faults in the hospital buildings which made the hospital vulnerable to fire, and increased possibilities of high causalities.
In a report based on the inspection, the firefighters said they found no fire hydrants, manual call points, alarms, emergency exit lights and aviation lights at the hospital. The building also did not have a basement and ramps.
Fire Service also found no safety lobby on any floor, pump room, sprinkler heads, hose reels with hydrants, smoke- heat- or multi-detectors with main panel and repeater panel boards on any floor or basement.
The hospital did not have the requisite number of portable fire safety equipment. It did not have a fire control room, according to the inspection report.
An administrative officer of the hospital was present during the inspection, the report said. The inspection team suggested installing proper firefighting systems in the hospital and regular maintenance of electrical wiring. The team also suggested that the hospital authority clean the store room, where the fire would eventually take place. But necessary measures were not taken by the hospital, according to Fire Service officials.
‘We will not be responsible’
On October 21, 2018, the Fire Service sent a letter to the hospital authorities and requested them to implement a fire safety plan to ensure public security - mentioning previous inspections and warnings.
In the letter, the Fire Service wrote that its inspection had found fire and public safety measures to be very poor at the hospital.
“To develop fire resistance, firefighting capacity and public safety of your hospital, the Fire Service recommended necessary steps in a previous letter,” it said.
“Though you did not implement the recommendations, we again inspected your hospital. But you made no development on fire resistance, firefighting capacity and public safety. Therefore the hospital is high-risk. Under these circumstances, if any incident takes place in the future, you have to bear the responsibilities.”
The hospital did not obtain a no-objection certificate from the fire authorities, which is must by law, the letter said.
Major AKM Shakil Newaz, Director (operation and maintenance) Fire Service and Civil Defence, said: “We repeatedly warned them to take necessary steps but they did not care. We will take necessary action against them and other risky hospitals very soon according to the law.”
“We will file cases and operate mobile courts in each hospital and attach a signboard in front of the hospital by saying that this hospital is risky and has no fire resistance system,” he said.
Suhrawardy Medical Director Uttam Kumar Barua could not be reached for comments over repeated attempts.