When we talk of fire safety, we actually need to be ahead of the incidents to effectively tackle fire accident tragedies. This means taking pro-active steps to prevent fire from doing damage in the first place. This is the reality that people tend to ignore or overlook.
In the corona pandemic we saw that whatever had to be done to stem the root had to be done by the last man upwards. It took a major fear complex that drove everyone to wear masks, sanitize, keep safe distance, go for tests etc. But not before many succumbed and the lockdown, lathi measures took precedence over coaxing, cajoling and requesting.
Barely hours after Prime minister Narendra Modi asked states to undertake fire audits, especially of hospitals, citing rising cases of such incidents amid searing heat in many parts of the country, The Department of Delhi Fire Services revealed it had received around 3,500 odd fire and emergency-related calls, including cases of house collapses, since April 1 and that it would start the audit process soon.
"We have been directed by the Delhi government to conduct a fire audit of the 38 government-run hospitals for now. But we will be conducting audits in all the hospitals. In case we find any default in their fire safety system, shortcomings will be highlighted, and accordingly, they will have to take corrective measures," a senior fire official said.
The question to ask, cynical as it may sound, is did this wisdom dawn upon the fire chief only now? To be fair, the fire departments in most parts of the country conduct awareness programs, mock drills, training sessions and similar things regularly, but unfortunately, a new film attracts far bigger crowds than these programs do. Then the theatre catches fire. Now, that was a bit tongue in cheek, but remember Uphaar?
The cinema hall was shut in 1997 after a major fire broke out with nearly about 150 moviegoers trapped inside. Now read this April 17th news report:
“A minor fire broke out inside Uphaar Cinema theatre on Sunday morning, following which five fire tenders rushed to the spot. No casualties have been reported till now. The blaze affected the theatre's balcony and a floor.”
There is a hidden irony here. The place with a historic fire tragedy reputation is on fire after 25 plus years repeats the history. No deaths this time, but the level of forgetfulness and carelessness on everyone’s part tells a story. What if the cinema hall was opened and a show was on this time too?
Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. If we don’t wake up now, we probably never will.