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Factsheet: Planning for Emergencies and Incidents

As event organiser, you must have a response plan in place such there be a health and safety incident or emergency.

Your emergency plan needs to be in proportion to the level of risk presented and that means understanding the potential extent and severity of an incident or emergency.

The Key Risks

Using the resources you have, you need to formulate a plan that event staff and volunteers can follow in the event of a significant incident.

For example, outdoor event organisers might want to consider the sudden onset of bad weather. Other events may need to consider what to do in the event or a fire or structural failure.

But there are other key risks too, such as an act or performer cancelling at the last moment.

You will also need to consider the possibility of major incidents that require emergency services to attend.

Stop Check – Counter-terrorism

It is a sad fact of modern times that event organisers also need to pay specific attention to terrorism, taking steps to prevent attacks wherever possible.

There have been attacks on high-profile and lesser-known events thus, you need to have a plan in place should a terrorist attack happen in a crowded place.

The key message is:
Run to a place of safety
Hide rather than confront
Tell by dialling 999

Share emergency plans

Once you have your plan, you need to share it. This applies to all events other than those low risk or small events, or those events in fixed venues with established procedures. You need to share your plans with;

  • Police
  • Fire and Rescue Service
  • Ambulance services
  • Emergency planning, local authority
  • The venue management team

What should be in your emergency plan?

Most plans address the same requirements and therefore, would include;

  • How to get people away from immediate danger
  • How emergency services will be called
  • How emergency services will be assisted
  • How casualties will be handled
  • How to deal with displaced, non-injured people
  • Liaison plans with emergency services and authorities and who has handover responsibilities
  • Protection of property

Emergency Procedures

The plans will also cover the procedures staff and volunteers should follow in the event of an incident and would include;

  • How to raise the alarm would be raised and the public informed
  • Insite emergency response, such as the use of fire extinguishers
  • Summoning the emergency services
  • Crowd management, including evacuation if needed
  • The evacuation procedures for people with disabilities
  • Traffic management, including emergency vehicles
  • Incident control
  • The providing of first aid and medical assistance

First aid and medical considerations

The Health and Safety Executive strongly recommend that the public is included in first aid and medical assessment for an event.

You need to be confident you have enough medical assistance and ambulances on site to balance the needs of your event attendees.

If there are no ambulances on site, you will need to draw up a plan with the local NHC ambulance service to determine how people will be taken to hospital, if needed.

Define emergency roles and responsibilities

Appoint a team to implement procedures in the event of an incident or emergency, ensuring that everyone understands what they are to do. This plan would include;

  • Locating exits
  • How to use emergency equipment, e.g. fire extinguishers
  • How to raise the alarm
  • Who they should receive instructions from


Emergencies develop rapidly thus, you and your staff team need to be confident you act quickly but correctly too.

The audience or event attendees should be moved to a place of complete safety without delay, and that means safe evacuation;

• Plan escape routes and ensure they remain available and unobstructed
• Make sure all doors and gates are unlocked, free from obstruction and clearly signed

Signs and lighting

You will need to provide signs and lighting so that people unfamiliar with a building or venue can safely evacuate;

All escape routes must be lit
Emergency lighting must comply with British Standard BS5266-1
Make sure all lights are positioned where they don’t dazzle people leaving the premises

Other essential considerations

Places of safety must be clearly identified and available.

Vulnerable people may need additional assistance and must be planned for. Consider too, how children will be reunited with parents.

Communication is essential too thus plan emergency announcements, along with a designated script giving clear information and instruction.

Show Stop

An effective emergency response will require immediate and a controlled stop to a performance. You should plan this too by;

  • Identifying the key people involved in a show-stop procedures
  • Understanding who and how to communicate with performers and audience
  • Deciding who will initiate the show-stop
  • Having an agreed pre-designated script for a show-stop announcement
  • Briefing managers and performers in advance as to what the show-stop procedure is

Transfer of authority to emergency services

If the emergency services called to site declare a major incident, all event personnel and
resources will be under the command of the police.

It is possible to declare an emergency in one area, whilst the performance or event continues in another.

Test your plan

A tabletop exercise is a great way of testing your plan and the effectiveness of your response.

Prior to the event, test all communication systems too.