Fire experts have raised a red flag over the issue of emergency exit doors on Delhi Metro’s platforms remaining either closed or locked at all times, and maintained that this can seriously hinder the evacuation process in case of a fire or any emergency.
Sarbani Mitra, a fire safety expert from the Indian Institute of Social Welfare and Business Management, told The Sunday Guardian, “According to fire safety standards, the emergency exit doors at all public buildings need to be strategically located and they cannot be locked at any point in time, because during a crisis situation, the response time is very crucial and one cannot be expected to wait till the management comes with their keys.”
“The exit doors should be kept opened and designed in a way that they can be pushed open to the outside. The evacuation plan needs to be displayed widely around the public building and the way should also be free of any obstacle,” she added.
While this correspondent spoke to a few commuters on the Blue and Yellow lines of the Delhi Metro — constituting the busiest routes — passengers were clueless about any evacuation plan or emergency exits in the platform.
One of the passengers travelling in the Blue line said, “We do not know anything about either the evacuation plan or the location of the emergency exits at any of the stations that I have been to.”
Rajiv Chowk, one of the interchange stations between the Blue and Yellow lines, sees huge crowds at nearly all times. However, when this correspondent visited the station, he could not see any prominent display of emergency exits there. Neither could any evacuation plan be seen displayed anywhere prominently in the station and the emergency doors were shut.
A spokesperson of the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC), said, “The emergency exits are supposed to be kept closed and they are only to be opened during an emergency. Even the tunnels have provisions for emergency exits.”
The DMRC, however, said that its staff is completely trained to handle such eventualities, maintaining that they also conduct mock drills from time to time along with the National Disaster Management Department, CISF, and the Fire Department, to handle any eventualities.
K.T. Ravindran, an expert on urban planning, said, “The Delhi Metro is supposed to meet international standards by all means in terms of safety and there should be a proper evacuation plan displayed at all prominent places to help passengers make their way through smoothly without panicking. The Metro can also involve common passengers as part of their mock drills, without creating panic.”
“In any crisis situation, Metro staff must manage and supervise people. We have provisions that in case of an emergency, we can evacuate people within minutes. This is a comprehensive system and we cannot let the passengers take evacuation decisions,” the DMRC spokesman said.