‘Reduce risks this festive season’

It’s that time of the year again. A festive nip in the air warmed up by ‘SALE’ hoardings splattered all over. People are gearing up for the Puja pandal visits, Ram Leelas or the burning of Ravana effigies on Vijayadashami, depending on the part of the country that they are in.

A little mismanagement and these celebrations can turn awry.  The most common fellers include stampedes and fire.

An undercurrent of uncertainty prevails at huge gatherings. A crowd can become a stampede – a man-made disaster – in a moment and can result in casualties. A crowd can give in to baseless rumours or may just follow a herd-like mentality. Once triggered, it is very difficult to contain this fluid mass of people. It is, therefore, important that the organisers of these pandals and Dussehra celebrations take simple precautions to ensure safety.

  • The first step is to regulate traffic in areas surrounding the pandals and Dussehra grounds. For pedestrians, route maps for reaching the venue and emergency exit route should be put up at strategic points. Barricading to ensure the movement of people in a queue is key to control a burgeoning crowd.
  • CCTV cameras to monitor movement and police presence to reduce the risk of snatching and other petty crimes should also be on the organisers’ agenda.
  • Unauthorised parking and makeshift stalls eating into pedestrian space also need to be taken care of.
  • Medical emergencies can occur in claustrophobic spaces. An ambulance and health care professionals on stand-by can save lives in exigencies.

On the part of revellers, familiarising yourself with exit routes, staying calm and following instructions will help prevent stampede-like situations.

  • In case a stampede breaks out, protect your chest by placing your hands like a boxer and keep moving in the direction of the crowd.
  • Stay alert to open spaces and move sideways wherever the crowd gets thinner. Stay away from walls, barricades or bottlenecks such as doorways.
  • Stay on your feet and get up quickly if you fall. If you get injured in the process and can’t get up, use your arms to cover your head and curl up like a fetus so that your exposure area is reduced.

Unplanned and unauthorized electrical wiring at pandals, LPG cylinders at food stalls and crackers hidden in the Ravana effigies pose the danger of a fire breaking out. These instances of fire can be fatal given the dense crowd in the vicinity.

  • Organisers should ensure authorised use of electricity, fire safety extinguishers and other arrangements meeting safety guidelines.
  • A list of neighbourhood hospitals would come in handy. Simple precautions like wearing light, cotton clothes and knowledge of basic tricks like rolling on the ground to douse off fire are a must.

The Government of India is committed to the cause of Disaster Risk Reduction. It is organising the Asian Ministerial Conference in November this year in collaboration with the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR). The Conference will bring together policymakers and experts from 60 participating nations to arrive at a roadmap to safer, stronger, disaster-resilient Asia.

Each one of us is a stakeholder in the march towards Disaster Risk Reduction. Let’s prevent what we can, be prepared for the uncertain and work together towards a better and safer world.