Kalamassery blasts: police issue security charter to auditoriums, convention centres

Kalamassery blasts: police issue security charter to auditoriums, convention centres

Security officials at the site of the twin blasts at a convention centre at Kalamassery in Kerala. File photo
| Photo Credit: THULASI KAKKAT

The Kochi City police are in the process of issuing an eight-point comprehensive security charter to auditoriums and convention centres within their limits in the wake of the twin blasts at a convention centre at Kalamassery that claimed five lives and injured scores, some critically, during a prayer meet of Jehovah’s Witnesses last month.

The charter issued by the special branch features a slew of guidelines ranging from general directions to specific security measures, some of which seem to have not gone down well with auditorium operators. It calls for deploying enough security staff at auditoriums, parking areas, and other major points, besides keeping them under CCTV surveillance.

However, the direction to retain CCTV footage for a period extending to six months has raised concerns. “It is not practical since it calls for considerable investments in hard disks with a larger storage space. Footage for a period of up to 72 hours can be preserved,” said P. Ramachandran, general secretary of Ernakulam Karayogam. Police sources sought to allay fears saying that auditorium operators would not be harassed by insisting on six months’ storage footage but as much as possible.

The direction to set up door frame metal detectors (DFMD) and security screening at entry points is another proposal opposed by a section of auditorium operators citing practical issues. They wondered how it could be done in an event like marriage attended by a huge gathering without attracting the wrath of visitors. I

Police sources said if people could walk in through DFMDs at malls and multiplexes, how could that be an issue at auditoriums and convention centres. “However, we know that smaller auditoriums may not be able to comply with it. But while issuing general guidelines, we cannot differentiate between big and small auditoriums,” a senior officer said.

Auditorium and convention centre owners have been asked to insist that the organisers of programmes keep data of participants complete with their addresses and contact numbers at the time of booking itself. On the opposition to it, police sources said it was the responsibility of the organisers and not that of the owners who only need to insist on such a record. “A digital app should solve the problem easily. Such data will give the police something to fall back on in the event of an untoward incident since many organisers conduct events without the permission of the police,” the officer said.

Among other directions were mounting boards displaying information about emergency exits at entry points, restricting access control to avoid trespassers when auditoriums are not in use, installation and proper upkeep of firefighting equipment, clearing emergency exits and security demonstration ahead of programmes, and alerting the police and fire and rescue services about suspicious items.

“A meeting of all auditorium and convention centre operators should be convened for deliberations before going ahead with the security guidelines. We will write to the police seeking such a meeting and airing our concerns,” said Mr. Ramachandran.

Such a meeting of stakeholders may be held once the police complete issuing guidelines to all auditoriums and convention centres.

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