A fireproof door in one of the renovated indoor units at AMRI Hospitals, Dhakuria. Picture by Amit Datta
AMRI Dhakuria is set to resume admitting patients to its two renovated indoor units on Saturday, less than 10 days after the health department restored the hospital’s clinical establishment licence.
“We have received the state pollution control board’s clearance as well and plan to admit patients from July 5,” said Rupak Barua, group CEO of AMRI Hospitals.
The health department’s green signal came on June 26.
Barua said the indoor facilities would have 202 beds, 156 in the main building and 46 in Annexe II. The Dhakuria unit had been forced shut after a fire in Annexe I on December 9, 2011, claimed 91 lives.
Before the fire, the main building had about 180 beds and the indoor facility in Annexe II hadn’t been opened. Annexe I, which isn’t structurally connected to the other two buildings, will be closed for now.
In the first phase, the hospital will admit patients to the cardiology, orthopaedic, urology, nephrology, nuclear medicine and a few other departments. “We need some time to start full-fledged neurology services,” an official said.
Sources at AMRI said the management had spent around Rs 10 crore on a fire-safety upgrade.
The fire services department apparently conducted more than 10 inspections before the fire-safety licence was granted last month. “The installations have been done in accordance with the National Building Code (NBC),” an AMRI official said.
The NBC is a comprehensive building code drafted with inputs from around 400 experts. “It outlines the basic parameters for the safety of a building. But the guidelines can be improvised, depending on specific needs,” city-based architect Anjan Mitra said.
“No code is foolproof for fire and other hazards. But such norms are important because they draw parameters,” another architect said.
Metro did a recce of the renovated indoor facilities at AMRI Dhakuria to find out how the safety measures stack up against the NBC guidelines.
These are used to prevent the spread of fire and smoke through AC ducts. If there is a fire and the indoor temperature rises, the damper blades are closed. At AMRI Dhakuria, people were choked to death by fumes that spread to all parts of Annexe I through AC ducts on December 9, 2011, because there was no fire damper to stop the spread of fumes.
What the code says: Fire/smoke dampers shall be located in conditioned air ducts and return air ducts/passages. The dampers shall operate automatically and simultaneously switch off the fans of the air-conditioner.
Where AMRI stands: Fire dampers have been installed. In the event of a fire or smoke spreading, the air-handling unit will be switched off automatically. Fire dampers will close the AC ducts to prevent the spread of smoke. Smoke-extraction fans have been installed in the wards that will be turned on automatically to flush out the noxious fumes.
Annexe I had two stairways but no ramp or fire emergency stairway when the 2011 fire tragedy occurred.
What the code says: Not less than two exits of one or more of the following types shall be provided for every floor: doors, stairways, ramps. All required exits that serve as egress from hospital shall not be less than 2m in clear width, including patient bedroom doors, to permit transportation of patients on beds, litters or mattresses.
Where AMRI stands: A new fireproof stairway connecting all floors to the ground floor has been built. The fire services department had denied permission for indoor facilities last year because the stairway hadn’t been set up.
At Annexe I, power supply was switched off after the fire broke out and many of the victims tried but failed to find their way out through the dark corridors.
What the code says: The staircase and corridor lighting shall be on separate circuits. Emergency lights shall be provided in the staircase and corridor.
Where AMRI stands: The hospital says the new emergency lights in the corridors are all battery-operated. “Even if power supply snaps, the batteries will allow the emergency lights to function for six hours,” an official say.
The personnel on duty on the night of the fire in Annexe I initially didn’t know where it originated or which way it was spreading. They came to know that the fire had started in the basement after the fumes had spread, by which time the situation was out of control. Although there was a fire-detection panel, it didn’t work after power tripped. Also, nobody was monitoring the fire-detection panel.
What the code says: There shall be a control room on the entrance floor of the building with communication system to all floors and facilities for receiving the message from different floors. The fire-control room shall also have facilities to detect the fire on any floor through indicator boards.
Where AMRI stands: Fire-detection panels have been installed on the ground floors of both buildings. The exact location of a fire is supposed to be displayed on the board. “We also have closed-circuit television on the control panel, to be monitored round-the-clock. The fire-detection panels have an alternative power supply unit,” an official said.
AMRI had been using part of the basement in Annexe I to store highly inflammable items that caught fire in December 2011. Sources in the fire department said the basement didn’t have a separate ventilation system and that the AC duct was part of the air-conditioning system for the entire building. This led to the toxic fumes spreading to all parts of the building.
What the code says: Each basement shall be separately ventilated.
Where AMRI stands: The main building does not have a basement but Annexe II has one. The radiotherapy unit has been set up there. According to officials, the unit has a separate ventilation system and the air-conditioning unit isn’t connected to the main system.