In a first, Indian Railways comes up with SOP for staff to deal with train fires


The SOP guides on how to prevent loss of lives and minimize damage to property in case a train catches fire. (image: Reuters)

Keeping in view past fire incidents that took place on the Indian Railways network, including fire in a running Shatabdi in the month of March, the Railway Ministry has come up with a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) on incidents of fire for those on board as well as at stations and elsewhere. The SOP guides on how to prevent loss of lives and minimize damage to property in case a train catches fire, according to an IE report. The training material for railway staff developed as per the new SOP said that more people in train accidents expired due to suffocation from smoke rather than actual burning. The poisonous gases like CO, CO2, etc., being lighter in weight circulate in the upper part during fire incidents while oxygen in the lower part.

The SOP, created by the national transporter for the first time, mentioned that railway passengers should be advised to crawl on floor instead of running and also they should be advised to take a wet piece of cloth and cover their nostrils. On March 13, one New Delhi-Dehradun Shatabdi Special coach caught fire soon after crossing Raiwala in the state of Uttarakhand. The train was stopped, onboard passengers were taken out and before the train was sent on its way to Dehradun, the coach was detached. As per probe, the fire might have resulted due to smoking in the toilet. Now, Indian Railways is providing training to all the concerned staff as per the new SOP on what they should do in case of fire incidents.

As per the SOP document, usually, the time available for rescue is a few minutes before smoke fills up and onboard passengers start getting disoriented. Smoke can lead to suffocation as well as loss of consciousness in two minutes. The document further said that fire in personal clothing can cause loss of consciousness in 10 to 15 seconds and death or incapacitation in around five minutes. Ordinarily, nothing should be given orally to the injured one, but if there is a delay of medical treatment for more than four hours, then ORS drinks preferably bio carbonated soda should be given, the SOP mentioned.

The SOP document, according to the report, has also recommended that in each train, an Instant Action Team on fire be formed as a matter of routine. The team will include drivers, TTE, guard as well as other staff. Besides, it will also include those on contracts, such as pantry and cleaning staff. It also stated that mobile numbers of these staff members should be with railway officials in each train journey so that in case of a fire, coordination is instant. The newly created SOP document also envisages training of all these people in how to operate the onboard fire extinguishers. There are altogether 18 fire extinguishers, located at various places, in each running train.

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