I was thinking about a conversation I had with one of my old music lecturers, where he told me about the days when he used to organise music events, back in the 70s.

He told me about a particular event that went wrong and could have been a complete disaster. If I remember rightly, the headline act was a band called ‘Toilet’ [or something similar], and during their performances they used to let fireworks off from the neck of their guitars.

This event that he organised took place in a large indoor venue, and because he was aware that the band regularly used fireworks during their shows, he discussed with the Venue Manager whether it was safe to do this at the event. They came to the conclusion that the venue wasn’t suitable and therefore the fireworks were not allowed – so he told the band NO FIREWORKS on the night.

However during the gig, the Lead Guitarist shot a firework from his guitar. The crowd went mad with excitement and hadn’t noticed that a sheet of netting across the ceiling had caught on fire, until bits of it started falling onto them. No one in the crowd knew whether it was special effects (because it looked pretty cool) or if it was a real fire, so they assumed the first, and carried on dancing. Even though the Venue Manager and my Lecturer was trying to tell everyone that this was not meant to happen and everyone should get out – they just ignored them. The band carried on playing, in fact the more dangerous it got, the louder and more excited the band became, one of them shouting “this is rock and roll…YEAH!” and the crowd got wilder and wilder.

Eventually my Lecturer wrestled the band off of the stage and the Venue Manager pulled the plug on the sound system, and managed to get everybody out.

He said it was a nightmare, when the fire engines arrived – a group of drunk girls from the gig started flashing the firemen, so instead of quickly putting out the fire, they were checking the girls out.

Thankfully the fire did get put out, nobody got injured and there was no major damage – but the results could have been catastrophic.

So learning from this story, if you are putting on a similar event, here are some things that you can do to prepare in case of an emergency:

Create an emergency plan
that includes…
⋅ crowd management
⋅ first aid
⋅ who the decision makers are
⋅ how to stop the event
⋅ a method to communicate with staff and guests
⋅ the location of the light switches for the room
⋅ the location of the fire exits

Other procedures to do before an event:
⋅ risk assessments
⋅ train staff what to do in an emergency (including meeting points and basic fire training, such as if you don’t know what you are doing, leave it to the experts, because you could make it worst)
⋅ check where the fire exits are and ensure there is good exit signs
⋅ know about the act you’re booking (my Lecturer knew that the band let fireworks off during their gigs, and tried to prevent the incident from happening)

However if you are putting on live events, I recommend reading The Event Safety Guide

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