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Strict SOPs, stakeholders’ training must to manage disasters at religious places: Study

Rutam Vora Ahmedabad | Updated on September 25, 2021

Lack of effective disaster management plan at most places

How prepared are our religious places to tackle a disasters?

A recent research conducted at multiple religious sites across the faiths has underlined a need for a special attention to mitigation measures and management of man-made disasters such as fire, stampede or terror attack at these places of mass gatherings.

The study conducted by a researcher on religious matters from Ahmedabad, Dharmik Purohit revealed serious gaps in the claims of disaster management plans and the on-ground preparedness.

"Disaster management plan is mostly left on paper. There are very less instances of regular training of the ground staff, hence they are least aware of the SOP to follow in emergency situations. For example, decorators use temporary electrical wirings, which poses a serious risk of short-circuit. But neither the officials nor the decorators bother to follow standard safety protocols," said Purohit, who found most of the religious places in his study vulnerable to fire and short-circuit.

Mostly, the structures are made of stone, which may protect from damages due to the fire but devotees may not be able to escape it.

Need timely intervention

Notably, India has witnessed some of the worst disasters at the religious places be it a temple, dargah/masjid or a church. A timely intervention in terms of planning for emergency response, continued training of the ground staff and volunteers besides awareness among the devotees would help prevent the disasters and may also help manage eventualities.

On the infrastructure part, Hindu and Jain temples, churches and dargah were found to be equipped with fire-extinguishers, first-aid kits, emergency announcement mechanisms, information sign boards for mass communication etc. But less volunteers knew how to operate these infrastructure.

"The temples of Somnath and Ambaji, Palitana Jain temple, Methodist Church in Ahmedabad and Jumma Masjid in Gandhinagar have crowd management plan in place for special days. But for regular days they need an SOP for ground staff to follow and training of key stakeholders including priests, volunteers, police/ security guards, health workers, shop owners and vendors etc," said Purohit, who has submitted his research work to the Social Work department at the Rai University.

The research covers eight religious sites in Gujarat - two each from Hinduism, Christianity, Islam and Jainism faiths with a sample size of 200 including officials from government, fire, health and shrine authority, vendors and the devotees.

On the issue of temples or shrines located in the crowded spaces with narrow lanes, experts note that the authorities need to undertake re-development of the crowded area surrounding the shrines.

Speaking to Businessline, P K Laheri, trustee of Somnath Temple, informed that the congestion need to be cleared by implementing town-planning and redevelopment. "At Ambaji, we had implemented town-planning in the one-square-kilometre area and cleared all the congestion. Today it is one of the most frequented temples in Gujarat. Wherever there are narrow streets or congestion, blocking access of emergency vehicles, we have to change it."

Published on September 25, 2021

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