Lax fire safety at New Delhi railway station

There was a fire at the parcel office of New Delhi railway station three months ago. But it seems the railways learnt no lessons from the incident.

Displaying a grim picture of firefighting preparedness at the busiest railway station in the capital, a reality check conducted by the fire safety audit team of the railways in January has shown that a majority of fire extinguishers at the station were unusable.

According to the report’s highlights prepared by the chief station manager of New Delhi railway station, a copy of which is available with Deccan Herald, 47 of 48 fire extinguishers available at the post of the Railway Protection Force were not in usable condition at the time of the audit.

While 35 were empty, 11 were due for refilling, and one was found to be without cap and cartridge.

Similarly, at least nine out of 16 fire extinguishers available at the parcel office on Sadar Bazar side were found to be unusable. The team conducted the audit on fire safety and other security arrangements at the station on January 8. The report was prepared on January 23 and sent to the departments concerned.

As if these were not enough, the team found that the none of the parcel office staff was
“conversant with the use of fire extinguishers”.

This puts rail passengers and railway employees at great risk if any major fire broke out at the station building, which also houses several waiting rooms and offices.

Displaying the state of affairs at the station, which see an average footfall of five lakh and where 290 trains operate, the reports states: “It was surprising to note that none of the parcel staff available was conversant with the working of fire extinguishers. Two fire extinguishers got operated by parcel porters under guidance of the refilling contractor.
This gives a very grim picture of fire fighting preparedness at New Delhi station.”

According to officials, they are going through the findings of the report and will take action. “The responsibility of the lapses will be fixed and action will be taken. We have asked the departments concerned to get all fire extinguishers functional. Staffers will also be trained in using the equipment,” said Anurag Sachan, divisional railway manager (Delhi).

The audit team also highliggted the lapses in the secuirty arranagements at the station. As per the report, atleast 4 out of the 12 scanners were out of order. Moreover, they were not technically equipped to detect weapons and explosives on its own. The monitoring staff is able to identify hazardous items such as fire arms, bombs etc only on the basis of the shape of the article. Apart from that, the report also highlighted the lacunae in functioning of the CCTV cameras.

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