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Risk Management and Safety at an Art Festival

Last month the Art Festival Directors Conference (sponsored by Art-Linx) opened with the topic of Event Risk Management and Safety with speakers from Homeland Security. The discussion centered on what the event planning community must do to minimize the damage someone bent on destruction or inclement weather can do. Both art festival directors and public safety officials are wrestling with how to create and effectively implement public safety plans. While we talked about a number of ideas, the three most effective and easiest to implement are detailed below.

#1 Create an evacuation/shelter-in-place plan. This is the plan that can be used in any circumstance that impacts your event - extreme weather, active shooter or other types of emergencies. You have to ask yourself, whether you have more resources than the patrons do to protect themselves? If that's the case, then you shelter them. If they're better off outside of your venue, then they're going to need to be evacuated. Either scenario requires planning in advance done in conjunction with local authorities and disseminated to all the key personnel at the Festival.

#2 Site Logistics. The first step is to take inventory of existing risks on the site and what risks the event brings to the area. How many people do you estimate will be at your event? Will there be moving vehicles near the event site and could this pose a risk to pedestrians? Is there anything on the site that could become dangerous if there is inclemant weather? Artists and festival patrons have an expectation of safety, by idenfiying the risks and having a proactive plan in place, you can ensure all responsibilities are properly delegated and clearly understood.

#3 Create a Command Center. We are not talking about a huge room with cameras everywhere but a place where information can be given to the right individual or team. If you have a few thousand patrons, you need to have the ability to effectively communiate with representatives from different groups (Fire, EMS, Police, Private Security, etc.) either through radios, phones or a text service where everyone gets the same information at the same time and create a central command structure.

A check list for every event to consider is:

  • Site survey before event

  • A review of maps, terminology and key areas

  • Incident management gudelines that are written down

  • A clear leadership structure and contact list

  • A review of evacuation plans and key contacts with all staff members including porters, contract labor and on-site personnel before the event opens

  • Know where the closest hospital or trauma center is located

This is a badge that the Saint Louis Art Fair gave every artist this year at the event. It was given as a reminder that active shooter incidents are often unpredictable and evolve quickly. In the midst of the chaos, anyone can play an integral role in mitigating the impacts.


(Click the title to go to the website for more information)

Homeland Security

Active Shooter Preparedness Program

"If You See Something, Say Something"

Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative

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