A team of specialists from the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) conducted a mock drill here on Saturday on the dos and don'ts to be followed in the pilgrim-choked hill temple of Venkateswara in the event of a fire, stampede or bomb blast.
The NDMA experts, who landed here in the backdrop of the January 14 Sabarimala tragedy, focussed on two areas — studying the contingency plans already put in place by the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) to tackle any possible disaster, especially in the Venkateswara temple, which is always crowded, and to train the temple staff and the fire brigade on the security drill to be followed in the event of any disaster.
The TTD has already put place a well-equipped security network, both inside and outside the shrine, following red alerts sounded from time to time by security agencies in the aftermath of terror attacks in the country.
There is also a mechanism for firefighting, especially inside the temple where giant ovens fuelled by LPG operate almost round the clock for making four lakh to five lakh laddus a day.
The NDMA team, led by Brigadier B.K. Khanna, which held discussions with TTD Vigilance and Security wing officials and the district civil and police administration, was said to have focussed on avoiding a stampede-like situation. In the two Vaikuntham queue complexes, thousands of devotees wait for hours together for their turn to get darshan.
The NDMA team, which included senior specialist V.V. Pradeep and V.V. Prabhu, conducted mock drills and held live demonstrations on disaster management.
To give the exercise a touch of simulation, the experts conducted the drills at the replica of the Tirumala temple, which the TTD has put up at Alipiri, the foot of the hills.
The team is expected to give the TTD a report broadly laying down the guidelines, policies and plans for disaster management and timely and effective response for mitigation.