A massive fire broke out inside a Kolkata Metro coach on Thursday, 27 December. According to reports, around 16 passengers were injured, while 15 others suffered minor injuries.
While the metro officials claim that they acted immediately, passengers have complained that there was a delay in their response and that they broke open the windows of the AC coach and jumped out to save themselves.
Fires in trains or metros can be hazardous, especially since you are in an enclosed area and are usually on the move. In case you are stuck in an emergency like this, here are five measures that you can take to save lives:
1. Save yourself from suffocating
A passenger told Dainik Bhaskar that the elderly passengers had trouble breathing in the smoke-filled compartment. If you too are stuck in a similar situation, and this goes for fires even in buildings, make sure you wet a napkin/ handkerchief or some cotton cloth and put it over your nose and mouth. The damp cloth will prevent suffocation and help you breathe comfortably.
2. Pull the emergency brakes/ press the fire alarm
As soon as you have ensured that you are safe, make sure that you ring the fire bell or if possible, pull the emergency brakes. This should ideally, stop the carriage in its place and open doors for the passengers to escape.
The Hyderabad metro, for example, is “being constructed as open stations to pave the way for smoke and heat dissipation. Platforms, stations, staircases etc., are designed for rapid evacuation even under fully loaded and crowded conditions.”
Similar technology will enable people to evacuate the premises safely in case of such emergencies.
3. Break open the windows
The doors in the Kolkata metro did not open, and so the passengers had to break the windows in the AC coach to escape. This was a dire situation, but we suggest that the first step should be to search for emergency exits.
In case there are none, search for a hammer that should be placed right next to the fire alarm. This will help you break the windows. In case you find none (and you can file a complaint with the authorities in this case), try to break the glass with whatever material is available at the time while also taking care that no one is injured.
4. Prevent a stampede
When you find an exit—in terms of opened doors or broken windows—make sure that it does not get crowded. As natural as it is to panic in such a situation where your life is in danger, it is equally important that you think calmly, and think straight.
Allow children, the elderly and the differently-abled to exit before you do and take the initiative to let the crowd pass quickly but without creating a stampede situation.
5. Douse the fire if you can
Passenger train carriages are required to keep fire extinguishers as a safety precaution. If you find one of these, try to douse the fire before it intensifies beyond control. If possible, contact the authorities and the fire department.
Every situation is different, and a template may or may not suit the circumstances perfectly. So, while these are general guidelines you can follow, do remember that your presence of mind and quick actions may help save several lives.
Above all, please keep in mind that you must ensure your safety first.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)