It was my first day at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge as a trainee doctor, the Induction day. Being a medical graduate from Pakistan, it was a very important day for me to get acquainted with the system. As expected I went through Basic Life Support training, precautions before transfusing a patient, infection control, hand washing techniques and basics of prescribing. All was well until we came to the last training module of fire training. Fire training, for a doctor? Why oh why? Let us go home now, my stomach was rumbling with hunger and my head was aching. But I had to sit for this mandatory module as I wouldn’t be allowed to work unless all boxes were checked and this would be repeated every year.
My Asian colleagues and I were in agreement “these ‘goras’ are too sensitive to trivial things”. We laughed. “No one cares about those petty infections and issues in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh which they fuss about” we chuckled. “We are strong, immune and hardy to most of the infections and why this fire training? We are not training to be firemen.” … Only a few years of living here proved it was nothing to be proud of.
The module began. The fireman training us, taught about 6 types of fire, their chemistry and physics including how fire spreads (i.e. Conduction, Convection and Radiation), different kinds of fire fighting equipment, fire exits (not to lock them or obstruct them or park in front of them), assembly points, weekly fire test alarms, electromagnetic fire doors which would close automatically in case of fire alarm going off (to contain the fire) etc. Too much, too boring, we all agreed and yawned as “passionate doctors”.
The Karachi fire tragedy has taken the peace away. More than 300 precious human lives lost including women and children, 300 families mourning their loved ones, charred bodies, the worst fire tragedy in history of Pakistan, what a horrible day it was! Lack of implementation of basic laws, low cost of human lives, selfish money-making employers, lack of governance and professionalism on their part and lack of training and awareness of basic rights on employee’s part; my mind is all entangled, trying to find the root cause.
It’s true that the government is non-functional, the laws and legislature are left to dust in libraries and offices, and the nation is running most of the things on its own without any support from the leaders. But it’s a fact as well, that, we as a nation are too casual and complacent in our daily routines. You wear a seat belt – you are too sensitive a kid, or you are a showing-off-elite child. Wearing a helmet while biking makes you less of a ‘hero’. Overtaking a car by revving your engine is a ‘wow’ factor and sticking to the rules and observing laws make you a timid teddy or less manly. And when someone asks you to be cautious and stick to the rules, they are just a nervous ‘newbie London-palat’. The casual attitude of complacence must change.
The Karachi factory had all exit doors locked except one, and people kept pleading for the keys. The only working ‘fire exits’ were some windows through which some workers managed to fling themselves to save their lives. Yes! I am talking about humans locked in an ‘inferno’ and killed because no one saw it coming. This horrible incident could repeat itself if we don’t stand up.
But what can we do?
Every one of us can pressurize our employers, self-train and then train others, run a movement not only in factories, but all places even homes. Imagine the horrific consequences in schools, colleges, offices and hospitals.
There’s a lot to learn from the developed world but unfortunately our society only takes copying their accent and outfit as ‘development’ and for our leaders, knowing the West only means luxurious holidays and wagging tails on their commands. All the leaders who have ruled us so far know how things work in developed countries but what they don’t know is that their prime responsibility is learn from them, change and implement laws and protect the citizens. That’s what these leaders are answerable for, in the court of God.
Casualties from plane crashes, overloaded vans falling from heights, fire tragedies are all preventable with just little precaution. I wouldn’t stop blaming government for anything tragic we encounter, but that’s not it! Think what we can do as responsible people. Our responsibility increases due to them being dysfunctional. Impress upon annual vehicle checks, start from your car, team up with other parents and refuse to send your children in a van that has no check, team up with colleagues and pressurise your employer for fire training. Arrange fire trainings in hospitals, schools and colleges. Play your role wherever you are. This is the least we can do when we know we are forgotten and abandoned by the lot we call government. Let the change begin.