No TS unit provides info during disaster

PCB, DRF, fire, factories point fingers at each other

Hyderabad: In case of an industrial or a factory fire, there is absolutely no one that people living in the vicinity can turn to for advice on their safety when dangerous gases could be billowing about.

Inquiries revealed that none of the 'line' departments has a system that ensures inter-departmental communication in a crisis that can aid in taking prompt action and issue safety advice or directives. Each department leaves it to the others.

According to sources, the TS Pollution Control Board (PCB), the Disaster Response Force (DRF) and the Fire Services department and the department of factories, for all practical purposes, have no clue of what the other would do during an industrial fire, even when it involves chemicals as in the case of the blaze that gutted the Allen Homoeo and Herbal Products Ltd at Nandigama of Shadnagar in Rangareddy district last Friday.

The PCB, it is learnt, believes that the problem is that of the department of factories, while the latter says it is the factory management that should educate the people. The fire services says the PCB and factories officials should rush to assist it in helping people.

Though the PCB boasts of a 'task force' to attend to such events, it takes around two to three hours to get to the accident site, but does not have any equipment to measure or identify gases on a real-time basis, or monitor wind direction so advice can be provided to people who may be the most affected.

"We have been very fortunate so far that something very serious has not happened. But a disaster is just one fire away," an official said.

Even worse, was an admission that if a situation developed during an 'non-working day', then all bets could be off with respect to any immediate, or even delayed response.

Every factory, as per law, must have sign boards outside their premises that can be easily read on what they manufacture, what they use, and what needs to be done during an accident. "Practically no factory or a plant using any kind of a chemical has done this," a government official said.

No official was willing to go on record stating that they just are not capable of providing possible life-saving advice in an emergency

According to sources in the fire services department, the industrial areas in the Rajendranagar-Katedan belt, and between Patancheru and Sangareddy, a major pharma hub, are the worst hit with fires. There is a fire almost every other day in the Katedan area, an official said.

"Just like the fire services, the PCB needs to rush in. We have a 24-hour fire call control room and PCB too should have one and then the two can be linked up," the fire services official said.

The fire services department is in the process of procuring multi-gas detectors which will provide a basic idea about commonly found gases such as carbon monoxide, or sulphur dioxide and a few others, which will enable firefighters to determine if they need to use face mask with oxygen cylinders. "This is a start," the official said.

With respect to the department of factories, officials said that it was the responsibility of the respective factory "to educate people living in its vicinity on disaster preparedness and action to be taken. We hold regular mock drills along with fire services."

Dr Vyakarnam Nageshwar, pulmonologist

* Effect of chemical fires mostly seen on skin, lungs, digestive system,eyes;

* Toxic contamination of food likely;

* First line of defence could be using a wet cloth as a mask, preventing direct exposure to chemicals.

Dr M. Rajeev, MD Pulmonology, TS Medical Council

* Whoever inhales the moke or fumes will get affected in some way.

* Those with respiratory problems such as asthma or COPD, should be particularly careful;

* If possible, people should go as far away as possible from the fire source.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle )
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