Digitalizing Fire Safety Audits for Temples in Tamil Nadu

Digitalizing Fire Safety Audits for Temples in Tamil Nadu under TN HR & CE (Tamil Nadu Hindu Religious & Charitable Endowments Department)

How many times while we have been waiting in  long and crowded temple queues for hours, have we been surprised at the lack of Proper Fire Safety Measures in temples ? Due to huge crowds even a small incident puts in risk a lot of human lives. It all goes back to lack of awareness – lack of awareness right at the level of Government, at the level of respective Temple officials and Public at large. Even at Tirupati which I would say as “THE” best managed temple (at that scale) in the country or even the world, Fire Safety Measures have a huge scope for improvement, so you can imagine the rest of the country.

Coming down to TamilNadu also known as Land of Temples (around 38,000+ as per Wikipedia) , I would safely guess that at least a 33% (one third) of them would be at least a century old and a few thousands would have a historic legacy of at least 1000+ years . These temples – which are symbols of our culture have survived centuries of natural & man made calamities, invasions, destructions and damages caused often by our ignorance and greed (mostly of recent decades)

Now after surviving all this if they stand a risk of being damaged or destroyed due lack of fire safety measures, that is a real pity. This ignorance has to be done away with. The recent fire accident in Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple was a huge wake up call.

The good thing is that if press reports are to be believed Government authorities have already woken up and the even better thing is that the solution to this is available , it is not difficult to implement and most importantly not expensive. This blog details it

Fire Accident in Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple

Taking one step back and thinking a bit, the recent Fire incident at Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple is a sort of warning. Luckily No Lives lost, though we lost the 400-year-old, Veera Vasantharayar Mandapam which is about 7,000-square foot. The ancient carving and mythical structures on the walls and the pillars have been damaged or lost. We are still luckily that the main temple wasn’t impacted

Now there is a lot more awareness among Public, Government & Officials about Safety in Temples than before and best of all – Tamil Nadu Government underTN Chief Secretary has directed TN HR & CE Officials to do regular Fire Safety Audits at the larger temples under its control and submit reports every 3 months to track and monitor continuously to strengthen Safety in Temples.

While the government direction is only for large temples, there are already many who are pressing to do these Audits be made mandatory at all temples under HR & CE and not just the large ones. The demand is genuine given the fact that small temples have lot less resources at hand (finance, manpower) and hence they face a higher risk

But is it really practically possible to do regular Fire Safety Audits in temples (be it just the large ones or the entire 5231 listed temples under HR & CE) ? Is it sustainable in the long term to continue doing it? Is it?

YES, its possible

Its also sustainable over the longer term

It is also economical

The Solution

DIGITALIZE FIRE SAFETY AUDITS

Digitalization means

Scalable: Digitalization guarantees scalability. It is not just the large temples which will be covered, but all the 5231 (or more) temples under HR & CE and also not just Quarterly Audits but even Daily / Weekly / Monthly Audits

Economical: By adopting the digital approach, the total cost of the entire audit initiative will only be a fraction of cost of the conventional approach

Real Time Status: HR & CE official get a real time safety status of all the temples via Analytical Dashboards.

Non Conformity Tracking: Digital approach ensures Non Conformities are systematically tracked to closure without gaps

Reduced Manpower : Digitalization opens up the possibility of “Use the Local Staff approach” and this guarantees a huge reduction in manpower when compared to conventional approach.

Manpower Utilization: “Use the Local Staff” Approach

The Conventional Approach “Use the Local Staff” Approach
Doing a basic maths on a very optimistic approach a team of 100 Professional Certified Safety Auditors doing 2 audits (1 Audit = min 2 hours in Temple+ Report Preparation 3-4 hours + Travel ) per day, every day will be able to cover the 5231 temples in a month doing just one Audit / Month / temple

I am only considering Audits, I am not taking into consideration all the other important work that the Safety Officers would have to do namely Incident Management, Risk Assessments, Near Miss Investigations, Work Permits, Safety Training. To do all this we might probably need to double the team?

This conventional approach is heavily person dependent and eventually will have a huge cost structure

In the end will not be Sustainable over time

We will need on an average 1 Certified Safety Officer per District (Larger districts might need more )

The Safety Officer will visit each temple , analyze the temple in detail and establish the safety processes and procedures

The Processes and Procedures will be established and configured into the Digital System (Software System)

The Safety Officer will then train the local staff at the temple to do regular audits and procedures using the Digital Solution (with a simple Smart Phone). A regular daily audit at a small temple would take 10-15 mins and a large temple might take an hour

Thereafter the local staff at temple will follow processes and do the routine tasks and routine inspections (daily / weekly / monthly audits) and being digital all audit findings, Non Conformities (NCs) etc. are available to Safety Officer in real time

With the routine work being taken care by local staff, the Safety Officer shall have sufficient time to work on the real value added tasks of a Safety Office namely Risk Assessments, Incident Management, Near Miss Investigations, Work Permits , Safety Training etc. (everything digitally)

This is something that digitalization facilitates

Audits with Smart Phones

With the digital approach the HR & CE Safety Officer or the local temple staff would use a simple Smart Phone to do the Audit. With Processes well defined by the Safety Officer the temple staff would just have to follow the process. All the information gathered at a temple becomes available to the Safety Officer instantly Audit Findings, Pictures , Non Conformities, Incident Reports etc for the officer to follow up with subsequent actions

Real time Status via Dashboards and Analytics

The HR & CE can have a near-real time fire safety status of all the 5231+ temples under it in real timeVital KPI like the Top 20 temples and bottom 20 temples in terms of Safety Standards by district or within the entire State can be all be had in a couple of clicks

The HR & CE can have a real time fire safety status of all the 5231+ temples (as more) in HR & CE across Tamil Nadu

Top 20 Temples

Bottom 20 Temples

The officers at Village Level, District Level will be able to nail down the critical issues & allocate the right resources to address them in Priority . This will bring about an un-precendeted level of Safety that HRCE will be able to ensure at its temples

Just by doing an Audit, whenever expected Criteria are not met, Non Conformities are automatically created and allocated to respective contractors or authorities. It is just like an OLA / UBER platform allocating rides to drivers. It is that seamless. Because they get allocated to respective people they also get tracked to closure seamlessly. This level of accountability in tracking Non Conformities is Un-precedented.

The Transparency enables the decision makers to allocate right budgets quickly without delays. Also the benefits of the budgets allocated show up immediately. Less Corruption as well less Bureaucracy

Digital Tools Available

Though Digital Audits Platforms are not yet as popular as a regular ERP Software , we have quite a few well established platforms available in the market . If you would ask me I would definitely Vouch for my Platform Pro-Inspector , but then we have many platforms like Gensuite, iAuditor , InspectThis and more. Each tool has its own advantages and dis-advantages which the stake holders can evaluate during their due diligence

Conclusion

Digitalization of Safety Management Systems is the future and TN HR & CE who are starting today to implement Safety Management System (SMS) in temples should opt for digitalization right away . Rather than it being an option I would even say that is the only way for the intitiative to be successful

This simple initiative if properly driven can be a golden opportunity for fire Safety officials and Campaigners
By doing the Audits digitally HR & CE will revolutionize Safety Audits in temples and would even become the champion of Safety among Government Departments and more than anything be able to guarantee the Fire Safe Temples to us
Anything done at temples can easily become the de-facto standard for fire safety implementation elsewhere, Schools, Colleges and all Public Buildings etc

Author

Boobandra Babu Ramachandran

Managing Director and CEO

Shloklabs