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Planning for incidents and emergencies

Your duties as an event organiser

You must have plans in place to respond effectively to health and safety incidents and other emergencies that might occur at an event.

This emergency plan needs to be in proportion to the level of risk presented by event activities and the potential extent and severity of the incident.

What you need to do

Consider the key risks to the event and those people present.

Using the resources available to you onsite, develop emergency procedures to be followed by staff and volunteers in an emergency, eg a fire or structural failure.

Include contingencies to deal with incidents and situations as varied as an entertainment act cancelling at short notice, severe weather, or the unavailability of key staff in your team.

You will also need to consider your response to more serious emergencies, including major incidents that will require the help of the emergency services and implementation of their regional emergency plans (which may not be specific to the event).

For all but the smallest events with low risks (or those in fixed venues with established procedures), draw up and discuss your plans with the police, fire and rescue service, ambulance service, emergency planning and, for fixed premises like stadiums and arenas, the venue management.

The detail and complexity of any discussions should be proportionate to the risks involved. Both organiser and emergency services should be clear about who will do what if there is an emergency or major incident.

Develop an emergency plan

Most event emergency plans should address the same basic requirements, to:

Emergency procedures

Procedures for staff and volunteers to follow in an emergency should include:

First aid and medical assistance

As well as workers, HSE strongly recommends that you include the visiting public in your first aid, medical and ambulance needs assessment. You should balance onsite medical and ambulance provision against existing local NHS and ambulance service provision and capacity.

Except for small, low-risk events where ambulances may not be required, and at events where they are not onsite, plans should be drawn up in conjunction with the local NHS ambulance service to clarify how patients will be taken to hospital.

The Event Industry Forum is currently writing guidance to help with first aid and medical assessments for an audience at an event.


Appoint people to implement your procedures if there is an incident or emergency.

Make sure that all relevant staff members, no matter what their normal working role, understand what they should do in an emergency, eg the location of exits, emergency equipment, how to raise the alarm and from whom they should receive instructions.


Emergencies can develop very rapidly. Make sure that you are equipped to move the audience to a total or relative place of safety without delay. The following will be helpful:

For further guidance on escape routes and strategies see the Guide to safety at sports grounds and Fire Safety Risk Assessment guides on Small and Medium Places of Assembly, Large Places of Assembly and Open Air Events and Venues.

Show stop

Effective response to an emergency can sometimes mean a rapid and controlled halt to a performance to prevent further risk to the audience or to initiate an evacuation.

'Show stop' (a term used for this procedure) involves:

This should be documented to ensure good communication between key agencies and adherence to the agreed plan.

After the incident:

Transfer of authority for an emergency/major incident

If the emergency services declare an emergency / major incident onsite at an event, all of the event personnel and resources will work under the command of the police. However, it may be that the police declare one part of the event as under their authority in order to respond to the emergency / major incident, but leave other parts of the event under the control of the event organiser.

Testing and validation

In many cases, validation of your emergency plan may take the form of a table top exercise, where you and others work through a range of scenarios and establish the effectiveness of your responses.

Test the communication systems, eg radios and public announcement equipment, before the event.

Find out more

Updated 2015-08-27