The following blogpost was written by Ivan and is republished with his permission from http://coutoivanx.wordpress.com/2014/10/13/a-light-by-the-raging-fire/
Bandra, Queen of the Suburbs
The queen of suburbs, Bandra, is noted for its goathon land (government authorities give it “village status”) in the bazaar, where structures exist or co-exist cheek by jowl. They are “streets apart” from the neighbouring plush swanky complexes.
A Marketing Case Study
Last evening, visited the bazar, to purchase some “chakna” (potato chips, chivda, etc) or snacks, during drinks. “Hot chips” is a chain of outlets, where deep-frying is done at the entrance itself, to entice customers. (makes for a good marketing case study). However, about 50 meters opposite is another competitive outlet that also retails similar spicy delicacies. No sooner did I visit the neighbouring shop, noticed a large flame of fire emanating from Hot Chips. The outlet I was in, immediately shut off the power and downed shutter, with every shop in the vicinity, following suit.
Calls, Tweets and Re-Tweets
The flame looked very menacing and leaped out into the street. It was obvious that buckets of water would not reach or douse it, only expert assistance would help. My mind froze, could not recollect any emergency number, the only one being the police control room (100), which I attempted several times, but to no avail. Tweeted for help for the fire brigade number and also for re-tweets. A member of the public helped me with the fire brigade number, which again could not be reached.
Meanwhile the flame was fast spreading. Also tweeted the local MLA for help. Could overhear a member of the public using the choicest expletives to the fire brigade and consoled him. People ran helter skelter, not knowing what was to be done. A lady wondered aloud, if the street lights with overhead connecting cables could be switched off to avoid the fire from spreading. Volunteers tried clearing the streets to make way for the emergency services, but neither the police, the fire brigade nor ambulance services could be spotted. The crowd stood helplessly, watched and clicked pictures. When I did manage to contact the fire control room, was informed that fire engines were on their way but could not reach the site due to bad traffic jams.
Waiting For the Inevitable, Hoping it would not
Soon the fire enveloped the entire one storeyed structure, (spread to the adjoining structure? – could not see), whilst the public stood as impotent bystanders, totally frustrated, at their wit’s end, praying for help, some salvation. Transfixed by the sight, glued to the spot. Ready to run for their lives, but curious to learn the outcome. Waiting for the inevitable to happen and the entire street to be aflame, and hoping it would not!
It took nearly half an hour for a fire engine to reach the spot. But hats off to their professionalism, the fire was doused very quickly. And the crowd breathed a huge sigh of relief and soon dispersed.
Enlightenment from the Fire:
1) If we have the vision to connect every mile in India,and have a “911 for the internet” (Mark Zuckerberg), can we not connect the existing emergency services of fire, police and ambulance for a single window approach, like (911) in the USA?
2) Granted that we have a huge populace, and the emergency services may not be able to respond to calls immediately (the very raison d’être for the services!), but can we not have a “call back” facility? Are our authorities not interested in reaching out to SOS calls? Have not received a single call till now and do not expect any in the near future.
3) Accepted, the current and future MLA’s (Members of Legislative Assembly) are busy people, but if they have a twitter presence, can they not appoint some of their numerous supporters as their social media managers who can be empowered to escalate such emergency calls to them? (Ironically, rumour has it that the fire engines were delayed due to their campaigning on the streets!)
The influence of the local MLA cannot be underestimated. In the past, the police have called for their presence at road accidents when public fury threatened to escalate into riots, and the MLAs were able to console the mobs.
4) Can the authorities not ban overhead cables/wires etc which can easily spread such fires?
Am sure that past experiences of disasters, fires, etc. have shed light on preventive and safety measures. But when will be able to get our act together to safe guard life and property of our citizens?