According to the Fire Service and Civil Defence, as of 2019, the country experienced 24074 fire incidents where 778 incidents occurred in hospitals, offices, schools, and hotels
Though fires have been reported at many hospitals in the recent past, the authorities are turning a blind eye on the entire dire situation.
This correspondent visited some hospitals in the city, and sadly found that most of the hospitals did not even have fire extinguishers, let alone proper fire exits in case of an emergency.
At ward 114 of the Urology Department of Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH), 44 patients were admitted on January 12, whereas the ward has a capacity of only 23. More than a hundred people were present in the ward including patients, doctors, nurses and attendants.
Rita Adhikary, senior staff nurse and in charge of this ward, said: “There aren’t adequate arrangements to fight any kind of dire incidents.
“Ward 114 is open 24 hours for patients' admission. Patients are always in a vulnerable condition if any fire breaks out, as we do not have a proper emergency exit. Maybe we will be able to find an exit using the long passage of the hospital, but I am very sure that patients will not,” added Rita.
Md Moslemuddin, 66, a patient of the Urology Department of DMCH said: “I don't know whether there is any emergency exit or not. I am even confused about the direction of the general exit.”
According to the Fire Service and Civil Defence, as of 2019, the country experienced 24074 fire incidents where 778 incidents occurred in hospitals, offices, schools, and hotels.
Report of Fire Service and Civil Defence
In 2018, a Fire Service and Civil Defence report was prepared after reviewing more than 400 hospitals, clinics, and rehabilitation centres in Dhaka city and the district.
The report stated: “More than 90% of the city health care centres do not have proper fire safety equipment.”
The Fire Service inspected 432 government and non-government hospitals and rehabilitation centres, and put them in different categories such as satisfactory, risky, or highly-risky and highly vulnerable.
Among the hospitals, only 11 (2.5%) private hospitals were found to have enough fire safety equipment (satisfactory), while 421 (97.5%) hospitals were rated risky or highly-risky.
Of those, 175 (40.51%) hospitals were in a highly vulnerable state.
After the unveiling of the report, the DMCH authorities took some measures to deal with fire accidents and installed some fire extinguishers.
Now, DMCH has two fire extinguishers installed along every two doors in the basement corridor, one every three or four doors on the first floor, and only one in every passage on the second floor (cabin block).
During the visit, the correspondent found no fire extinguishers in ward 12, the Department of Gynaecology and Obstetrics (baby care and caesarean operation theatre). The ward has a 30 bed capacity but normally 60 or 70 patients are admitted.
Due to the stealing of newborn babies from the ward, it has high security and is closed off by iron window grilles.
Seeking anonymity, a doctor said: “I do not think we are at all prepared if a fire breaks out. Most people in the hospital are not bothered. They think they have more important things to deal with in the hospital than a fire.”
The situation of hospitals in the city
Brigadier General AKM Nasir Uddin, director of DMCH said: “Our new buildings (DMCH-2) have inbuilt fire prevention water systems, but for old buildings we have installed fire extinguishers as per fire service guidelines.”
D block, a 16 storied building of the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU), does not even have any fire exit stairs which can be fatal if a fire breaks out.
Unwilling to disclose his name, a doctor working for the Department of Palliative Medicine on the fifth floor of E Block, said: “I do not know anything about firefighting programs or preparedness, but the building has very narrow stairs.”
Md Rokon, administrative officer of BSMMU, said that a total of 1250 fire extinguishers were installed in all of the buildings of BSMMU, and its been ascertained that all emergency exits are kept free so that people can get out of the buildings using the exits.
At Birdem General Hospital, there are no water reservoirs for fire prevention.
Md Manik Mollah, security in charge of Birdem, said: “There are 500 fire extinguishers and 80 people have received firefighting training.”
Though there are no emergency exits, patients can use the stairs situated on both sides of the hospital for evacuation.
When asked, a high official of Fire Service and Civil Defence said that for a building to be safe, the fire service department considers many things such as the type of building, its basement and semi-basement, proper ventilation system, enough water reservoirs, fire fighting pumps, types of stairs, number and types of emergency exits, lifts and their capacities, fire lifts, ramps, slope ratios and width, safety lobby on the floor, width of main gate of the building, generator(s), transformer(s) and switchgear room, pump room, fire control room, sprinkler head at basement, hydrant valves, emergency calling and exit systems, thunder resistance, and so on.