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Festival Hazards

JohnInKansas 18 Aug 11 - 07:54 PM
Soldier boy 18 Aug 11 - 10:36 PM
GUEST,leeneia 18 Aug 11 - 11:27 PM
GUEST,999 19 Aug 11 - 12:03 AM
JohnInKansas 19 Aug 11 - 12:23 AM
My guru always said 19 Aug 11 - 02:32 AM
JohnInKansas 19 Aug 11 - 03:44 AM
My guru always said 19 Aug 11 - 04:31 AM
JohnInKansas 19 Aug 11 - 06:32 AM
Bettynh 19 Aug 11 - 12:13 PM
Jack Campin 19 Aug 11 - 06:37 PM
Edthefolkie 19 Aug 11 - 08:10 PM
SteveMansfield 20 Aug 11 - 07:08 AM
Silas 20 Aug 11 - 07:29 AM
Ref 20 Aug 11 - 08:17 AM
Cath 20 Aug 11 - 08:44 AM
GUEST,Peter Laban 20 Aug 11 - 10:24 AM
Silas 20 Aug 11 - 10:51 AM
GUEST,Peter Laban 20 Aug 11 - 11:25 AM
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Subject: Festival Hazards
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 18 Aug 11 - 07:54 PM

With news of a couple of weather related disasters at festivals, it seems prudent to pay some attention to the responsibilities of festival sponsors, and to the responsibility that festival audiences have to assure their own safety.

The recent Indiana State Fair stage collapse has been ubiquitous in news reports here, and probably got a fair amount of notice elsewhere.

A new report on a very similar disaster in Belgium has just appeared in my regular news sources: 3 die as storm slams Belgium music fest; US band safe .

Aside from our concern, empathy, and hopes for the victims and survivors, the latter article includes a list of other rather large-scale events that may have been forgotten.

1. 18 August 2011, Hasselt, Belgium, 3 killed, 70(?) injured.
2. 13 August 2011, Indiana State Fair, US, 5 killed, (30?) injured.
3. August 2011, Tulsa OK, Lighting Equipment collapse
4. August 2011, Quebec City, Stage collapsed (under construction), struck by lightning
5. July 2011, Ottawa Canada Stage Collapse, 7 hospitalized
6. 2009 Camrose, Alberta, Stage Collapse, 1 killed (75?) injured
7. 2009 Quebec City Comic Festival, stage collapse.

Most of what I've seen of the "discussion" of the kind that inevitably follows one of these sort of events has been related to the Indiana State Fair collapse. The "official" opinions, of course, have thus far been that "all precautions were taken and it was an 'act of God' that could not have been prevented."

Personally, I rather doubt that interpretation.

It does appear that the "emergency plan" for weather threats was at best "superficial." Nobody apparently thought there could be a problem and no real planning for what to do was laid out in advance. Weather service warnings should have been sufficient, but even if the audience had been given a warning, it's doubtful that any recognition had been given to the difficulty of getting a few thousand people to follow instructions in sufficiently prompt and coordinated fashion.

As one with significant experience in structural design, I would have to say that the Indiana stage that collapsed "looks sturdy enough" to be stable under benign conditions, but does not "look like" unusual weather (especially wind) was considered in any kind of failure analysis. Since all that's available is what has been shown in TV views of the collapse it's impossible for me to form any firm conclusions, but the structure obviously went down "as expected" for the structural vulnerabilities suspect in something of its kind.

THE BOTTOM LINE HERE – and the purpose I have in mind for the thread, is to see comment on:

"How safe do our people feel" at the festivals they attend?

Do the festivals we go to have plans in place for responses to unusual situations?

Are there "safe retreats" in the event of threatening weather, disorderly crowds, etc.? (unexpected malicious intent might be included in the current social climate?).

Any concerns, even if vague, that need a little fresh air?

Or is there "no concern at all?"


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Subject: RE: Festival Hazards
From: Soldier boy
Date: 18 Aug 11 - 10:36 PM

Oh dear me.

Wherever people gather in large numbers it is obvious that any 'risk assessment' will show a heightened danger of risk purely because there are so many people gathered in one place.

Events called 'festivals' or 'fairs' which indicate a possible large gathering of people should obviously be avoided then John.

If you have so many concerns about "safety" at such events John then the answer is surely to just stay away and wrap yourself up in cotton wool, stay indoors and don't venture anywhere where there could be the slightest hint of danger.

I know from bitter experience that many really good 'social' and 'community' events have bitten the dust/no longer occur, because of too much red tape imposed in the name of health and safety and risk assesment in case an organiser becomes culpable and could possibly end up facing legal proceedings from the sue 'em and screw 'em crowd!

And on top of all that you are now saying " Do the festivals we go to have plans in place for responses to 'unusual situations'?" and "Are there "safe retreats" in the event of threatening weather, disorderly crowds etc.?"

Good God man, do you not realise how daft all that sounds!

How much legislation and litigation do you want before it all becomes academic because there won't be any social gatherings at all because the threat of potential legal action will kill them all off!

And it sounds to me like you are precisely one of those people that would go out of your way with a clip board and a check list at such social events to actually look for fault and catch people out for your own misguided and power-mad reasons only to ultimately shoot yourself in the foot!

Think very carefully before you continue such a lame lament for you come across as such a very sad person!

Chill out man.


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Subject: RE: Festival Hazards
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 18 Aug 11 - 11:27 PM

I don't know where you live, Soldier Boy, but a thunderstorm with winds of 60-70 mph (which is what occurred in Indiana) is far from unheard of in the American Midwest.

That stage should have been engineered to withstand that, and more. No excuse for it.

John,the account I read didn't mention whether anyone had a National Service weather radio on. Do you know? If not, that's a grievous fault.

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Subject: RE: Festival Hazards
From: GUEST,999
Date: 19 Aug 11 - 12:03 AM

John, I worked for fifteen years as a first responder. I tend to view all situations with an eye to potential hazards. In truth, I have never checked out a stage (although I've been on a few). The questions you ask and the points you make are cogent. There are festivals I've been at where

1) I felt there were too many people to be handled by first aiders in the event it hit the fan. I think there should be numbers (for example, for each 100 people there should be x number of trained EMT-As, and as the numbers rise, x number of first aiders to work with the EMT(s). As those numbers go up, I'd like to have an EMT-P (paramedic) added, and as THOSE numbers (of people) increase, then maybe add an ER nurse (they and paramedics do many of the same things, but the licenses and allowable interventions are legally different for each).

2) there are no such things as disaster plans.

The Ottawa blues event had a disaster plan, and subsequently had 'staff' who knew what to do when it went to s##t. They did very well. BUT, the stage should have held, much like one would expect scaffolding to. This pic will attest that stages that size will fall down real hard if they fall .

I think you may be misunderstood on this thread, so before that happens, allow me to thank you for a wake-up call. Much appreciated. (I ain't gonna inspect the nuts and bolts, but if it doesn't seem safe, please look for me with my guitar as far from the stage as is its height and the distance the top of it might roll.)


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Subject: RE: Festival Hazards
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 19 Aug 11 - 12:23 AM

leenia -

The organizers have said that they had checked with the weather forecast services and "didn't see anything to worry about." There was a major storm cell approaching, with known location, speed, and direction, with warnings of the possibility of high winds and hail. Apparently the organizers didn't think it should be a concern until something happened to them. Unfortunately, it did.

The forecasts also specifically noted a high likelihood of lightning accompanying the front, but they still had at least one spotlight operator 12 feet up in an open-framed steel structure when the whole thing came down. He was one who died.

As to whether preparation is needed, at the festival we attend regularly, tornado WARNINGS, indicated that a tornado has been sighted and confirmed, have been issued to campers at least three times in the past dozen years, tornado WATCHES, indicating weather conditions indicate a likelihood of tornado formation, perhaps a dozen other times.

The festival has been delayed a couple of times due to flooding just prior to the festival, and was evacuated a couple of years back because the flood arrived just after everyone set up camp. The evacuation was swift, appropriate tractors were available to yank everybody out of the mud, but even so one camper about 60 feet from ours had to be dragged out of nearly four foot deep water, at about the time we got onto the road. Written evacuation plans were available, but due to "miscommunication" between a couple of agencies, we were ordered (by the county sheriff's deputies - who apparently "came late") to go out by an alternate route (not according to the plan), and were unable to get a copy of the instructions about alternate assembly locations.

The stage at this festival withstood the flood (as usual), and the grandstand shows went on as usual a few days later, on schedule, after the water receded (or was pumped out) although we couldn't get back into the surrounding area to resume camping.

Prior Planning WORKS, even if there's an occasional glitch that's "inconvenient."

Pre-festival, when only a few were in the campground, we were hit one recent year by a sudden storm, apparently similar to the one that wiped out the Indiana Fair. Anyone not there to fold up their canopies and SECURE any canvas lost it - pretty much completely. The wind was in excess of 60 mph (recorded nearby by the weather guys) and we got a little over 3.5 inches of rain in about an hour. WE KNEW IT WAS COMING, and suffered no damage, although one fellow nearby was a little slow getting a 22 ft awning rolled up, so I dragged the end of the rope down to get his feet back on the ground and helped him roll it up, with only one slightly bent strut, a little before the peak gusts hit. It was already raining, but fortunately the hail wasn't too impressive that time.

I'm not nervous about going back, because I KNOW that preparations are in order for contingencies, and there are sufficient numbers of experienced campers to help take care of the newbies (or the total idiots).

My concern is whether my friends who go elsewhere are AWARE that SHIT HAPPENS - almost anywhere.


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Subject: RE: Festival Hazards
From: My guru always said
Date: 19 Aug 11 - 02:32 AM

You've raised some very good points John, and I certainly agree about experienced campers looking out for newbies, that's the norm most places I think.

But the biggest problems you've highlighted in your OP are regarding stage construction and personnel management. Surely this needs to be addressed by the installation agencies and festival organisers? As you say, there are too many (one is too many) tragedies in the examples on your list of disasters.

Certainly there should be weather watching and emergency planning built into any festival/fair. There has to be a balance though and I do relate to Soldier Boy's 'cotton wool' statement, although maybe he shouldn't have been so forceful or personal.

There will always be risks where large amounts of people are gathered together, just as there will always be risks in our normal daily lives. A friend's wife died from an insect bite after gardening. A Mudcatter's wife was saved by testing for donating organs. A fire in an underground railway. A crazy man shooting all the people on an island. Do we stay at home and hope that we die of old age, without enjoying our lives out & about with our friends?

No, we make intelligent decisions about what we do and where we go based on the information at the time. We rely on others to look after us in various situations and places, which they may not always be able to do, but ultimately you are correct in your statement - s**t happens.

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Subject: RE: Festival Hazards
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 19 Aug 11 - 03:44 AM

In the case of our regular festival we do have good assurance that the staff will keep things safe and orderly. The places where the few disasters listed have happened apparently do lack "something" that they're not taking care of.

Sometimes all it takes is for a few people to ask "how do you handle ..." to initiate a very significant improvement, and there are questions that need to be asked in advance, especially by those who, like us, need some "handicapped access" and support for medical devices/equipment. Our festival put new handicap ramps on a couple of stages last year after only a few requests from competitors who had difficulty getting on the stage for the contests.

In one instance, a TORNADO WATCH was announced, along with a warning about EXTREMELY HIGH WINDS, Heavy Rain and possible hail. The exertion of scurrying around to pick up and lash down apparently was a bit much for Lin so I found her in the camper, passed out in a diabetic coma. Rigid and jammed under the table where I couldn't even sit her up. Blood sugar low - OFF SCALE - on her glucometer, but barely registered 25 on mine (40 considered potentially fatal).

A call to 911 produced an ambulance that apparently drove directly to our inconspicuous camper in the middle of about 1200 others. EMTs (4 of them) managed to drag her out and got an IV started, and took off with her. Unfortunately they neglected to tell me where they were going, but I think they were in a hurry. I had to call 911 again to find out where the hospital was.

I met the chief EMS guy at the entrance to the hospital and he asked if I knew whether she made it, and said he was afraid she didn't; but by the time I got inside she was sitting up grinning and asking "Why'd you bring me here."

Do you KNOW that they even have an ambulance at your festival? Are fire lanes maintained open so the emergency vehicles can get to where needed?

Do you KNOW what security number to call when a diseased (apparently dying) racoon wanders in and lays down in the middle of a jam circle? (3 years ago).

Do you KNOW what the rules are about the little group that gets "rowdy"?

Do you know who to call about the stray armadillo under your camper? (5 years ago)

Do you know how to check the weather reports for yourself, for the immediate area of your festival? - if the power goes off or reception is bad and your TV won't work? - if the cell tower got hit by lightning and your phone's dead?

Being reasonably aware, in advance, is all it should take to be safe; but you need to be awake when you get there - or a little before - to make the best of it when the unusual thing hits.


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Subject: RE: Festival Hazards
From: My guru always said
Date: 19 Aug 11 - 04:31 AM

You're so right John, reasonably aware is what we should ALL be. And yes, asking questions prompts organisers to think and provide solutions - hopefully.

We've been fairly lucky in the UK having relatively 'normal' weather but I do recall someone being struck by lightning at Warwick one year, though he was not on-site at that time. Little 'rowdy' groups are unusual here at the 'folk' festivals I go to, though I confess that our caravan falls into the 'noisy late night' variety.

So glad that the emergency services were able to get to you (amazing accuracy on a crowded campsite) and help Lin at that Festival, good news!

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Subject: RE: Festival Hazards
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 19 Aug 11 - 06:32 AM

Actually, what I've described as "significant weather events" are close enough to normal for our festival that it's pretty much what we expect. Elsewhere, where normal is a little more normal, those less prepared are likely to survive, and so far as I know we haven't lost anyone due just to the weather.

At one "classic Windfield," after a bone dry day when the temp topped 100 F, we crawled into the sacks (mostly tents then) and woke up the next morning with about 5 inches of water in the middle of the camp with ice on the surface. Late September does have a tendency to be "variable" here.

I still wonder at the speed with which EMS found our camper, although we had a couple of things going for us. It's one of only two sold in Kansas, that I was able to confirm, with the "Thumper" model name, with recognition facilitated by Lin's artwork (a classic "Thumper Bunny") to add a little distinction, AND - I guess we're sort of "notorious" among the regulars. Quite a few people now refer to us as Mr & Mrs Thumper, although the incident came before that was well established. (Fame is a terrible burden, but it comes in handy sometimes.)


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Subject: RE: Festival Hazards
From: Bettynh
Date: 19 Aug 11 - 12:13 PM

Another disaster in Belgium
The video indicates a crowd of 60,000 with no ambulance on site.

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Subject: RE: Festival Hazards
From: Jack Campin
Date: 19 Aug 11 - 06:37 PM

None of the good ideas John and Bruce have described are worth beans if you build a tent the size of an apartment block in the middle of a crowd numbering in the tens of thousands in a place where sudden hurricane-force squalls are routine, as the Indiana organizers did.

Somebody should just have said NO to the whole idea.

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Subject: RE: Festival Hazards
From: Edthefolkie
Date: 19 Aug 11 - 08:10 PM

We're generally lucky in mid-UK not to have extremes like tornadoes etc., but it got pretty extreme at Cropredy last year. Somebody said the sky looked like that in the "Ten Commandments" Red Sea parting scene, and they weren't wrong.

We got sudden cold winds, monsoon standard rain, and hail - several times over 3 days. No lightning actually over the field luckily, but Simon Nicol onstage did ask people to lower flagpoles etc. No Pharaoh or chariots either but it felt like Yul was due any second.

BUT aside from being wet, nobody of the 15000+ was really worried as there is always superb organisation in place there. Bar, toilets, waste, safety, everything. Proper exit signs. People to help get cars out of the parks. Emergency phone number on wristbands. Stage built by pros. And this year, even St John's Ambulance Rapid Response pushbikes - with blue lights!

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Subject: RE: Festival Hazards
From: SteveMansfield
Date: 20 Aug 11 - 07:08 AM

My wife broke her ankle in a ceilidh at a well-known festival a few years ago and we were fairly alarmed at the lack of trained First Aid response, let alone ambulance or paramedic provision. Heaven knows how they'd have coped with a serious blood injury / heart attack etc ...

Things may have improved since (which is one reason why I'm not naming the festival), but it certainly made us look at the organisational side of these events in a rather different light!

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Subject: RE: Festival Hazards
From: Silas
Date: 20 Aug 11 - 07:29 AM

I think us UK folkie crowds are a prepared to put up with a bit of risk rather than have the bloody health and saftey brigade stomping in. I remember one year at Bromyard the rain was torrential, Les Barker was performing in a marquee, the sound kept going off and the water was literally dripping off the light fittings. Were we bothered - no. Use your own common sense, if you are not happy with the situation - leave.

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Subject: RE: Festival Hazards
From: Ref
Date: 20 Aug 11 - 08:17 AM

Whew! I thought this was going to be a thread about impromptu ukelele jams.

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Subject: RE: Festival Hazards
From: Cath
Date: 20 Aug 11 - 08:44 AM

I think the organisers have a duty and responsibility to look at potential hazards and be ready to deal with what comes up which could be all manner of things - usually pretty trivial but I'm aware of one drowning and at least one heart attack at the local one. Whereas the committee can't be held responsible they at least need to be in a position to take whatever action is necessary.

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Subject: RE: Festival Hazards
From: GUEST,Peter Laban
Date: 20 Aug 11 - 10:24 AM

With regard to the Pukkelpop festival in Belgium, referred to twice in this thread, the Openbaar Ministerie in Hasselt has issued a statement that they are satisfied all that could reasonably be expected from the organisers of the festival with regard to any health and safety issues was done. The incident was a freak weather event that could not have been foreseen or prepared for.

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Subject: RE: Festival Hazards
From: Silas
Date: 20 Aug 11 - 10:51 AM

Well there you go. Sometimes things just happen and no one is to blame. Won't stop people trying to make a claim though...

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Subject: RE: Festival Hazards
From: GUEST,Peter Laban
Date: 20 Aug 11 - 11:25 AM

There is no injuries claim culture on the European continent so that is unlikely to happen. Courts are not going to award the claims anyway, should they be made at all.

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