While crowd crushes are thankfully rare, they do unfortunately happen and, in some cases, turn deadly. So, if you’re planning an event, you must make sure it’s safe for every reveller.
Why is security important at festivals?
Festivals are meant to be fun, but without rules, they can quickly descend into chaos. If there’s a lack of security the risk of recreational drugs, theft and crime rockets. People may also behave in a manner they wouldn’t normally do, increasing the risks to both themselves and others.
Naturally, when you have large crowds gathering together in confined spaces, desperate to get as close as they can to their favourite act, there’s also a much greater chance of overcrowding.
Crowd safety rules aren’t there to spoil the mood but to make sure all festival goers can enjoy the event in a fun and safe way.
How do you make an event safe?
If you’re organising a large event, it’s important to begin festival health and safety planning as early as possible – setting the date and booking the venue is the easy part. Once that’s in the bag you can plan exactly what it will look like, how it will run, where people will sit or stand and most importantly how to keep them safe.
Organising large-scale events can be a daunting process, particularly if you’re new to the game and have little to no experience in managing crowds safely. Whether you’re a festival newbie or a seasoned organiser we’ve put together some top tips to help.
1. Undertake a risk assessment
First things first, a thorough risk assessment identifying potential issues early on is essential. Define the scale of your event, who will be responsible for festival health and safety, what areas could cause problems and what steps you’ll take to reduce or eliminate those risks.
Once you have a broad strategic assessment nailed down, you can focus on the details.
2. Know your legal responsibilities
Whether it’s a huge festival or a more intimate event, learn about your responsibilities with the Health and Safety Executive. You have a legal duty to maintain safety at events and to plan, manage and monitor proceedings so the general public, contractors and employees are all protected.
3. Draw up a schedule
As part of your operations management you should work out a timeline of actions – everything that needs to occur or be organised for your event to go off without a hitch. For example, if you’re erecting tents or structures such as stages, how far ahead will you begin? What about security? Do you have your own guards or will you hire in an independent firm?
4. Budget, prioritise and set deadlines
Make sure you have a festival safety budget for the security aspects so costs don’t spiral out of control. Set your max budget and get different quotes so you can compare security suppliers.
You must cover everything you’re legally required to do long before you open your doors (or field), so setting deadlines to get tasks ticked off is a sensible route to take.
5. Liaise with local authorities
If you’re holding a sizable event that could impact the local infrastructure then early communication with police, the fire service, the ambulance service and/or St John Ambulance is a must. Not only do they need to make sure health and safety at music festivals is followed, these organisations have huge experience in event management and can offer valuable advice on crowd safety.
6. Use the right equipment
Don’t skimp on the equipment – a stage collapse is the last thing you need. Make sure any fencing you use is fit for purpose and doesn’t exceed the capacity in any marquees or temporary structures you’ve put up.
Materials should be able to withstand a range of weather conditions, prevent unauthorised access and be used to send visitors in the direction they need to go.
7. Make sure your ticketing system is up to scratch
To protect the safety of revellers it’s important to only admit people with official tickets, so employ a system which can weed out those who are trying to slip in unauthorised. There’s a much greater risk of overcrowding if entry and exit aren’t strictly controlled.
8. Have visible security staff on site
Security staff are often the first port of call for festival goers, so a friendly and approachable attitude can make all the difference. Beyond that though, trained staff bring huge benefits when maintaining safety. Their highly visible presence can deter those with malicious intent from entering and stop anti-social behaviour. They also perform a range of roles including pat-downs and bag checks to prevent unwanted substances being brought in.
9. Run first-class communication
The only way to run a successful festival or event is through great communication. Your security and organisational team need to be in constant touch so they can liaise as soon as a situation develops and deal with it swiftly. Ensure your staff have clear radio communication in the event of an emergency, check any equipment is working before the event start and have backups should anything fail. Staff should also have the relevant authorities’ contact details to hand too.
10. Don’t forget about the build-up and the break down
When you plan your event your focus is on the actual day so it’s easy to overlook the before and after. Health and safety is just as important during the setting up of a festival and the breaking down of it after. While you won’t have the crowds to contend with in quite the same way, your staff need to be protected too.