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Fire tragedies have unfortunately become commonplace in India. With over 113,961 deaths between 2010 and 2014, fire is among the leading causes of injury-related deaths in India. The financial capital city of Mumbai alone accounted for 22 fatalities in the last six months, spread over 12 major incidents. According to a report by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), 51 Indians are killed each day by fire, accidental or otherwise, with residents of Bangalore 12 times more likely to die from a fire than all other kinds of injuries combined. Clearly, fire threat is a danger that is too risky to conveniently ignore. It is essential for people at an individual level are aware of some crucial fire safety tips so that they can act while the professionals are on their way.
Major fire tragedies can be avoided if safety measures are enforced and all citizens have basic knowledge on how to imply them. Dr Santosh Datar, Consultant Doctor and Medical Director, Ziqitza Health Care Ltd, has six fire safety tips that he says are essential for every person to keep in mind at all times.
Memorise all emergency service numbers
Dealing with large-scale fires requires combined efforts of the fire department, police, and ambulance services. In such instances, time is of utmost essence. It is therefore necessary for all people, including children and the elderly, to memorise the relevant EMS numbers, like 100 for police, 102/108 for emergency medical aid and 101 for fire. These may vary from state to state and region to region. Calling the emergency services is the first step you should take if you find yourself in the vicinity of a raging fire, following which you should calmly evacuate the area if the situation permits.
Panicking in a life-threatening scenario is possibly the worst thing you can possibly do, as it may cause you to act irrationally or make the situation you are in even worse. When you are caught in a fire, take a moment to assess the situation around you, weigh your options, and calmly call the emergency services for assistance.
Stay low to the ground
Contrary to popular belief, burns are not the reason why fires are so deadly. The real threat comes not from the heat of the flames themselves, but from suffocation and toxic smokes. In the event of a fire make sure you stay low to the ground i.e. crawl so that you do not inhale the toxic fumes, and if possible tie a wet handkerchief around your nose and mouth to filter out toxic particles. Avoid trying to barricade yourself in a building, because the fire may be drawing oxygen from the room you’re in, even if the flames are not in your immediate vicinity. However, if you are forced to do so, make sure to seal all gaps in the doors and walls with wet rags, this will reduce the amount of smoke entering your room.
Never use the elevator
If you’re stuck in a high-rise building, the elevator may seem like a swifter choice in the case of an evacuation. However, there is a strong likelihood that it will malfunction, leaving you hopelessly trapped with ineffective escape option. If you are ever caught in fire, always take the stairs.
Familiarise yourself with fire safety procedures
As we all know, prevention is better than cure. By familiarising yourself with the basics of fire safety i.e. types of extinguishers, evacuation procedures, and the layout of buildings you frequent, you greatly increase your odds of survival. It is better to be safe than sorry, and when it comes to fires, one needs to know how to escape rather than be caught off-guard. Several companies, buildings and schools conduct drills to simulate what to do in the case of a fire, and these have proven to be extremely effective in reducing casualties.
Conduct a fire safety audit
All offices, schools, residences, and businesses are required by law to have certain fire safety equipment in place. While many of these institutions obey these legal guidelines, several places do not, leading to tragedies like the Kamala Mills fire in Mumbai, which cost several lives. All responsible citizens should ensure that their residence, place of business, school, and university, comply with all the mandated fire safety regulations. If necessary, those flouting these rules should be threatened with legal action. There should be no compromise on safety measures.