Anyone Fancy a Game of Event Safety Roulette – How Safe Are Sefton Events?
Last night in near proximity to the Southport Eco Centre, Victoria Park and the Caravan Park a large devastating dunes fire was caused by the Sefton Council Musical Fireworks event. Fortunately, the swift actions by Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service prevented the dunes inferno from spreadingfurther afield. Thankfully, this time, no one was injured however this is the latest safety incident that raises a question over the competence of Sefton to organise and deliver safe events.
The overriding question is how safe our Sefton events and who is responsible for the safe operation and co-ordination of these events?
Events across the UK are generally well co-ordinated but with Council events staff cut and reduced event safety is frequently the casualty with councils prepared to ‘chance it’ or ‘turn a blind eye’. Event safety is complex and requires an understanding of crowd dynamics, temporary structures, pyrotechnical safety, special effects, traffic management to name but a few areas. Typically over stretched council officers do not have the experience nor qualifications tomanage, control or indeed understand these risks. Seftondeliver very few events compared to other councils therefore their internal event experience is shallow delivering the same monotonous event programme.
The Southport Musical Championships is an outstanding event but there are considerable potential risks when completing pyrotechnical teams concurrently set up thousands of charges in close proximity to each other. Pyrotechnical fallout of the exploding ‘hot debris’ is the greatest cause of secondary event fires. The fireworks are graded commercial which deems that the charges are larger and the fuse bodies much heavier. The fuse body remains superhot for longer periods. Last night’s fire into the dunes was a close call for Sefton. If that had happened onto the other ground deployed fireworks awaiting launch the explosive chain effect could have been devastating and could easily result in serious injury of loss of life.
The annual Southport Air Show is another proud Sefton event and pulls huge crowds into the region but how safe are the thousands of people that attend? Attendees this year were observed barbequing next to cars even using petrol to initiate BBQs. An explosive car fire would spread quickly. So how are the event risk managed or similar to many Councils ‘it hasn’t happened before so we will be ok’. Last year the ViPmarquee suffered a partial collapse under windy conditions. However, no-one had signed off the structure and what council staff are trained in structural safety of temporary structures? During this year’s Air Show saw the collapse and entrapment of children within a large inflatable run by Southport Pleasureland part of the show. Only for the swift actions of a group of Fathers were the children rescued. Who is responsible for this event safety and are the risks genuinely understood and managed?
3 Die at Super Trucks Show in the Netherlands. Last month three people were killed when a ‘monster stunt truck’ ploughed into a crowd of onlookers at an annual motor show in the east of the Netherlandshttp://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-29405190. This was a terrible and completely avoidable loss of life. Closer to home Sefton has frequently seen XtremeStunts a visiting carnival of speed and monster trucks. It would be a surprise if Sefton events team are even aware of the risks of such events. Once again ‘it hasn’t happened before so we will be ok!’ is no doubt the prevailing attitude. The Council has a responsibility to ensure travelling shows are safe for the public.
The Council run Southport Flower Show is another event run for many years but who is responsible for safety? Large structures, complex traffic management and growing crowd numbers; no doubt this is another event that lady luck has smiled upon. Events are now expanding across all areas of the region. The newly formed Southport Bid will possibly commission more activities and events – but once again who is safeguarding our children as we the public watch these events? In the event of an accident the Council will be quick to distance itself from its responsibilities to safeguard and ensure unsafe events are not delivered.
In comparison, large events such as the Woodvale Rally,FunFest and the Town and Country Fair appear well organised. These seem to be managed by private companies who understand events and more specifically event safety. The Council should take note and seek to understand how event safety is actually managed and delivered and less reliance on crossed fingers to run their events.
So how is safety managed at these Council events? Well it is suspected that it may involve the Council hoping and trusting that an accident won’t happen. The now tiny events team manage the same events year in year out. However event processes and procedures move on. This has the added risk that complacency could creep in – ‘we have always done it this way!’ The Council no doubt trust their event suppliers to build, deliver and collapse in a safe manner, but who in the Council is checking them? Event suppliers are there to make profit, if they feel they can build a marquee, launch fireworks or even deliver portaloos cheaper by cutting some corners then they will.
Southport and Sefton need more events however the recent dunes blaze at the Musical Fireworks Championships highlights that Sefton are playing at events and particularly event safety. Any fool can launch fireworks from a field or allow planes to fly off the Sefton coast. The real test is can you manage the traffic, park cars, and ultimately deliver a safe event? This takes experience and knowledge.
Sefton events have recently experienced too many near safety misses. Cllr Ian Maher (Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Tourism) needs to prove that he has a knowledgeable and experienced events team that can keep our children safe at the few Sefton’s events they deliver. Let’s not have our first fatality or serious injury before people realise that SeftonCouncil have been playing a fine game of event safety roulette!
Cllr Ian Maher its time for some answers.
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