The firecracker accident at Paravur happened despite the existence of an official Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) in Kerala written by experts to ensure safety at religious mass gatherings.
The ‘Guidelines for Event Organisers and Stakeholder Agencies’ lay down a six-month window of planning and elaborate checklists for each stakeholder department such as police, health, revenue, fire, electricity and the local body.
Produced last year, and published on the Internet, the guidelines identify illegal storage, manufacturing, and use of firecrackers as the main cause for accidents and call for the implementation of Explosives Rules, 2008. The code has been written by the Institute of Land and Disaster Management, under the State Department of Revenue and Disaster Management.
Based on its review of previous accidents, the SOP authored by Faisel T. Illiyas, Dr. Keshav Mohan and others also caution that use of unauthorised display agents and ignorance of safety measures could prove disastrous.
“Carelessness, negligence and ignorance” among organisers of events and fireworks handlers could cause fatal accidents, the code warns.
Experts had suggested that permission for “fireworks or pyrotechnic display, the request for approval from the concerned/nodal authorities shall be made in writing through proper channel” at least one month in advance. The firecrackers must be stored in a safe place away from the public and care must be taken during their display, the code says.
While listing the fire safety aspects that need to be put in place, the SOP prescription is for fire hydrants, fire extinguishers and trained manpower to be made available at the site. The “planning for the festival should be initiated at least six months in advance” and a festival management committee should be constituted to coordinate safety aspects with a Festival Controller, and for communicating with stakeholder agencies and departments for preparedness, the SOP says.Risk assessment
The guidelines also call for a risk assessment exercise as part of the event planning. Setting up of an Emergency Operation Centre at the venue of the festivals for centralised coordination is one of the components of the SOP. The centre should be a mandatory decision support system for all festivals attracting more than 50,000 people, the SOP says.