As I worked closely with community festivals organisers for a London council, I developed this two page document as a practical and useful tool to support event organisers in the safety aspect of their event planning. I intentionally kept it to two pages to help focus instead of overwhelm.
With recent events, these guidelines are more important to know than ever.
The transcript is below, feel free to take this and share with any colleagues organising community events this summer.
Event Safety Guidelines
The intention of this document is to highlight the importance of event safety for community festival and event organisers. This document focuses specifically on the safety planning for an event. Terror threat is a real and serious danger in the UK. The current threat level is Severe, meaning an attack is highly likely. Terrorists target crowded places and events are a prime example of this.
As an event organiser it is your responsibility to do everything in your power to keep your attendees safe.
Even if your event has been recurring for many years, it needs a new event plan and new approach each year as factors change, affecting your plans, which may cause issues. All event plans and risk assessments need to be reviewed in light of the current threat level.
1. Your Legal Responsibility
Under the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974, it is your responsibility as an event organiser to;
- Carry out adequate risk assessments and put suitable measures in place
- Co-operate and co-ordinate safety arrangements between stakeholders involved on site
- Ensure adequate training, information and equipment are provided to all staff
- Put proper procedures and competent staff in place to deal with imminent and serious danger and evacuation
2. Event Design
When planning the safety of your event, there are many aspects to consider. Below are some prompts;
- What size is your event? How much ground is it covering? What location is it in? Is it on a street or in a park surrounded by greenery and walls? What are the site conditions (what terrain you are on, steps etc.)?
- Who is your audience?Consider the age and profile of who is attending your event in relation to how to communicate when them when you need to evacuate and the mobility of the crowd
- What else is on that day or weekend?Pressure on transport network, and emergency services
- What are the entry and exit points?Just as the fire officer deems the capacity of a venue based on the number of exists (amongst other factors), the capacity of your site will be based on how quick and safe you can get everyone out and away.
- Can everyone get in safely and can everyone get away safely?
- Movement around the site/design of site
- Can emergency vehicles gain access to all parts of the site (leave 3.7 metres space on all roads)
- In all elements of your planning – consider them in both ‘normal’ and ‘emergency’ environments
- What signage have you installed for attendees so they know where entrance/exits are?
- Do attendees know where to go for help or assistance?
- Are your staff visible? Is it easy for an attendee to find a member of staff to ask questions?
- Encourage staff to report anything suspicious and be vigilant at the event
- Do your staff and stewards have a brief on exactly what to do in the event of an emergency? Including knowledge of local hospitals, non-emergency numbers etc.
4. Event Management
How you communicate with your team is crucial. Decide a communication plan with your team (for example phone, instant group messaging, radio) and what your command structure is (who is the event controller, how commands are given in the event of an emergency). It is worth conducting a table top exercise of how teams communicate with each other should an emergency arise, ensuring everyone agrees the chain of command.
Using code words is important as people nearby staff talking on the radio can hear what they’re saying and you want to ensure everyone remains calm. Consider code words for a fire, suspect package or evacuation.
Decide what your message to attendees is in the event of an evacuation. Write up a clear evacuation message on one page and hand out to all areas with PA communications.
It’s important to keep everyone calm. You can achieve this by ensuring everyone in your team remains calm. Speak slowly and with authority. When people are scared, they will look for someone in hi-viz and want them to lead them to safety.
Staff – Stewards & Security
Every member of your team play a significant role in keeping your attendees safe. We recommend that you include safety awareness into training and briefing of all staff.
The two main roles responsible for the safety of attendees are your stewards and security team. The Event Safety Guide recommends that you have one steward per 50 attendees. This does not take into account your site and information about your event that you established in the first section. The important factor to remember is that you have enough stewards – meaning, staff in hi-viz, with communications who will take the role of a steward in the event of an emergency – to be able to manage crowds, separate people from danger and bring people to safety.
Before you open your event, conduct a safety check of your site. Stewards and security should check in obscure areas, around bins, around and underneath stalls.
All staff need to be vigilant during the event, paying attention to anything unusual. Encourage staff to report anything suspicious. Save the Anti-Terrorism Hotline to your phone 0800 789321.
Remember the HOT principle. Is it;
- Hidden – purposefully out of view, in a bin, under a stall, behind a bush?
- Obviously suspicious – are there any unusual sounds coming from it, smell of almonds, discharge, wires?
- Typical – is it something you would expect to be there e.g. a school bag on the seat of a school bus?
If you do locate a suspect package, use the principle above to confirm that it is, then clear the area of people and cordon, mark the location of the package and description of it, then move as far away as possible (min 100 metres if possible) when calling emergency services.
An evacuation plan needs to be included as part of your event plan. It outlines how you will manage an emergency evacuation should it arise. Consider;
- Instructions and communications with all staff but most importantly your stewards and security staff
- How you will communicate with the attendees? Have you got a PA system? Can everyone hear instructions from the stage PA? Have you got loud hailers as back up (in case of power failure) and to reach those who can’t hear the PA
- Have you got adequate and accessible signage for people to understand and follow?
- Have you got more than one assembly point? Remember there could be a secondary device placed in your assembly area