Reflecting on a Decade of Disaster
As we enter into a new decade, many of us have been reflecting on our lives from 2010 to 2019. I couldn’t help but put it in the perspective of crowd disasters, to understand if there was anything we could reflect on and take the learnings with us into the 20’s (is that what we’re calling it?).
As we enter into a new decade, many of us have been reflecting on our lives from 2010 to 2019. I couldn’t help but put it in the perspective of crowd disasters, to understand if there was anything we could reflect on and take the learnings with us into the 20’s (is that what we’re calling it?). Our world has changed rapidly, with technology advancing, and industry professionals growing more experienced. However, we are still coming across unsafe practices, disasters are still occuring and people are being hurt.
As I looked through the list of disasters over the last ten years, I have highlighted below the ones that have been most prominent in the media.
- 2010: Love Parade, Duisburg. 21 deaths
- 2011: Sabarimala “stampede”, Kerala, India. 106 deaths.
- 2012: Port Said Stadium, Egypt. 74 deaths.
- 2013: Kiss Nightclub Fire, Brazil. 242 deaths.
- 2014: NYE, Shanghai, China. 36 deaths.
- 2015: Hajj, Saudi Arabia. 2000 deaths.
- 2016: Ghost Ship Warehouse fire, California. 36 deaths.
- 2017: Champions League Final screening, Turin, Italy. 1500 injured.
- 2018: El Paraíso Club, Caracus, Venezuela. Around 21 deaths.
- 2019: Crookstown crowd crush, Northern Ireland. 3 deaths.
The table below outlines the number of crowd disasters categorised by type of event over the last ten years.
Unfortunately, this list is not exhaustive. It accounts for 72 disasters, 3,747 people losing their lives and 6,394 people injured. Compiling the database of crowd disasters, the reasons for crowds gathering were classified as; entertainment, religious, sport, political, school, transport and recruitment drive.
‘Entertainment‘ ranked up top with the highest number of incidents. This category of events include live music concerts, festivals, nightclubs, and ‘meet and greet’. Entertainment events accounted for 33% of all crowd disasters in the last decade.
As someone who works in this industry, it is up to us to ensure that as we move into the next decade, we work to reduce this high statistic of 33% to as close to zero as possible. Everyone deserves to come home safe from an event and we are responsible for their safety to the best of our ability when they are with us.
How do we stop disasters from happening?
It’s pretty clear that in order to do a job well, one needs to be trained to a certain standard. We wouldn’t allow someone to wire our house if they weren’t a certified electrician. We wouldn’t allow someone to install a gas hob in the kitchen if they weren’t gas certified. We shouldn’t allow someone to be responsible for the safety of hundreds or thousands of people, without certification or proof of training and competence? Unfortunately, those who organise events currently need no qualification or proof of competence. To add to this, those who assess, permit and offer ‘letters of no objection’ also do not require any qualifications.
Until these requirements come into place, we need to take responsibility and ensure we continually train, gain new qualifications and increase our own standards.
There is no way we can completely prevent disasters from happening (apart from having no event), but upon assessment of the crowd disasters listed, most of them were preventable through effective design of the site, communications/information sharing and management of crowds.
In a previous blog post, I talk about how we can prevent future disasters by developing robust operations and contingency plans, and the responsibility of the event manager regarding the safety of crowds.
For community events, I wrote a very simple prompt guide of factors to consider when planning an event.
At present, there is no legislation in the UK specifically designed for events. Most legislation that affects our events – such as the Licensing Act 2003, Health & Safety At Work Act 1975, Safety at Sports Ground Act 1975 – evolved from other industries or reactions to specific incidents, rather than a holistic view of what the event industry requires to operate safely and competently. For example, on 11 May 1985, a wooden stand, containing built up rubbish and no fire extinguishers (removed due to hooliganism) burnt down, killing 56 people. Had the 1975 Act applied to stadiums in the Third Division, the fire hazards identified should have prevented them from getting their Safety Certificate. After this disaster, the 1975 Act was immediately updated and applied to all major sports grounds and a new act, the Fire Safety and Safety of Places of Sport Act was passed (Johnes, 2007).
Legislation needs to be designed to account for the holistic framework that surrounds events. It needs to be appropriate for a variety of events, future proof and to reflect the process of the event organiser and the approving authority.
The Three Cs
Competence. Certification. Continued Professional Development.
It is not the answer but it is a good place to start. From planning to licensing, on both sides of the table, there needs to be evidence of competence that is greatly lacking at present. From reflection on other industries, it seems a good way to assume a level of competence is certification, which requires continued professional development (CPD).
If the framework of crowd safety in the events industry can begin to build Competence, Certification and CPD into its very fabric, we will be in a much better place at the end of 2029 when we look back over the twenties (i’m sticking with it)
Johnes, M. (2007) ‘“Heads in the Sand”: Football, Politics and Crowd Disasters in Twentieth‐Century Britain’. Soccer & Society, 5(2) pp. 134–151.