It is a no-brainer that any closed area must necessarily have bare basics like fire extinguisher, first aid kits, emergency lighting systems, exigency signages and other paraphernalia to preempt any mishap in future and if at all it were still to occur, the people in the middle should get ‘hand-holding’ guidance from lights and signs to find the nearest exit or safe area. But it is a matter of sad fact, that this remains mostly on paper and this has been proved time and again from Kamala Mills to ESIC to AIIMS now.
At risk of sounding like a broken record, I wish to reiterate here that sometimes the optics of safety may differ from ground realities too and this is what we need to guard against. What use is a fire extinguisher if the guy near it in case of fire doesn’t know how to use it? What use is a safety exit if the lock is jammed when a ‘would – be’ escapee desperately tugs at it? Or if there are obstacles blocking the emergency exit when the need is to escape in a matter of seconds? Or if there are no illuminated signs showing the nearest exit or emergency lights offering some urgent visibility in smog and fire situations?
The gap between preaching and practice too appears to be widening. The fire brigades and other safety related organizations have organized awareness programs, mock drills in cities and towns across the country and continue to do so. However, the effort appears to be too little if any of the recent episodes of fire accidents are to be believed. There appears to be little evidence that the message has been driven home and the people in general are equipped to deal with the crisis properly.
Any equipment installed must be subjected to regular inspection to ensure readiness 24x7. Personnel in any organization or even a household, must be trained in the usage of such equipment so that at a critical time, there is no hesitation and the nearest person uses the equipment with alacrity and effectiveness. Installed signages, lights and safety/exigency related stuff need to be brushed up and maintained at regular intervals so that there is battle readiness at all times.
Finally, if the government is not doing it we need to do it ourselves. We need to contact the fire department upfront and request their assistance and surely they will oblige. We need not just invest monetarily in safety but also ensure we get our money’s worth. It is in our own interest to be aware, alert and adept at handling any emergency anytime.
Ultimately it’s up to us, and the sooner we get that into our thick skulls, the better it will be the next time. Especially when the next time could be right now.