Event safety guide for event organisers

Last updated: 2 October 2023

13. Contingency planning

You should document your procedures for fire, site evacuation, communicating with your audience in an emergency, contacting the emergency services and who will make decisions etc.

Include definitions, such as when an incident becomes major and is handed over to the police or other emergency service. You will need to share your emergency procedures with your event staff, contractors, volunteers and the emergency services.

You should also document any contingency plans. For example, in case of severe weather you should consider:

  • any weather conditions that may lead to your event being cancelled and how you will manage this
  • how you will let people know if the event has to be cancelled
  • if you need insurance coverage for cancellation reasons such as thunderstorms, water-logged ground etc
  • if there is any flood risk for the site and what arrangements will be in place to mitigate any impact
  • how your event management team will decide if weather conditions are too risky for your event to go ahead

Contingency planning and resilience is a function of all public bodies who have to plan and cooperate in the response to and management of emergency situations.

You may consider the response to a major incident lies solely with the emergency services, but you should be aware of such events as part of the risk assessment process.

The key to contingency planning is risk assessment. You must try to consider the likely events and assess them but also consider the unlikely.

Points to plan for

  1. Event location: Consider the location of your event in relation to services and infrastructure that you may need in an emergency, such as electricity, telephones, water, shelter, proximity to hospitals and availability of Emergency Services. It’s better to have them available or nearby.
  2. Access, egress and sterile routes: Make sure you have agreed access routes for Emergency Vehicles to and around your event, ideally separate from access routes for the public. An emergency access should be no less than 3.7m wide between the kerbs for emergency vehicles together with adequate space provided for emergency services equipment. For an evacuation route there should be no less than 1m wide from any protruding obstructions, however if the event is going to attract a large number of spectators then a wider evacuation route would need to be considered. Fire hydrants are to be kept clear at all times. (It is illegal to park any vehicle over a fire hydrant when it is required for use).
  3. Designate an emergency control point: Designate a point where members of your event management team and the emergency services can meet in the event of an incident. Ideally this point should be under cover and have electricity and telephone access.
  4. Designate a single point of contact to liaise with any emergency services: Emergency services will deploy a coordinating officer to the scene. You should consider who would be the Emergency Services Liaison.
  5. Brief your staff: Brief your stewarding, security, contractors/stall holders and medical staff on procedures to be taken in the event of a significant incident. Brief them on what their role and actions are. Consider a test exercise prior to opening to the public.
  6. Consider an evacuation plan: Consider where public and staff should assemble and evacuate to (eg a remote car park). Consider evacuation routes, signage and public address systems. Consider pre-prepared messages that are clear and will not alarm the public.
  7. Security: Are there any VIPs who will require special planning and arrangements? Could your event be subject to any subversive action from an individual or group? If in doubt consider getting specialist advice from Thames valley Police or a specialist event security consultant.
  8. Roles and responsibilities: Consider specifying individual and organisational roles and responsibilities in an incident.
  9. Resourcing: Consider the resources (equipment and people) at your event and how they can be utilised and managed in the event of an incident.
  10. Plan for dealing with the media: If an incident occurs plan to deal with local or national media. Prepare factual information about your event that can be released immediately (eg type of event, number of years running, no of people attending).

It should be stressed that whilst many of these actions may seem to be specific to larger events, correct planning and risk assessment should look at these issues even for small events.

Organisers should consider a section on major emergencies as part of their overall event management plan. It should also be shared with the emergency responders before the event.

Emergency planning guidance