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Fire safety at events

Organised events, varying widely in size and nature, are often characterised by large crowds, temporary structures, vehicles, electrical installations, portable generators and catering services. Each of these things can increase fire safety risks, therefore, fire safety at events is an important part of your event planning. Fire safety planning requires fire risk assessments, the implementation of preventative measures and response strategies to mitigate potential fire hazards. Furthermore, the event must comply with safety regulations to not only comply with legal requirements but, more importantly, to safeguard the staff, attendees and the venue itself.

Legal requirements underpinning fire safety at events

To understand your legal requirements, it’s important to familiarise yourself with the regulatory framework that underpins fire safety at events, the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. This order governs fire safety in England and Wales and applies to most buildings and structures, excluding individual private dwellings. According to this legislation, event organisers must have designated a ‘responsible person(s)’ and this person(s) is responsible for carrying out fire risk assessments and implementing the necessary fire safety measures to ensure the safety of all event areas.

Outside picture of a marquee.

This article explores the most important fire safety considerations when organising your events, including carrying out fire risk assessments. As part of this process, you will need to identify potential fire hazards, identify groups of people who may be at risk, assess the likelihood of these hazards leading to a fire and evaluate their potential impact. You will then need to put a variety of fire safety measures in place, such as ensuring the availability of fire extinguishers, maintaining clear evacuation routes, using flame-retardant materials and providing staff with fire safety training. By implementing these measures, event organisers can provide a safer environment for attendees, staff and the venue.

Risk assessment for fire safety at events

A fire risk assessment for fire safety at events involves examining the event’s size, venue, types of activities and profiling the list of attendees to identify potential fire hazards. You then must evaluate the risks associated with your findings and implement measures to mitigate or eliminate the risks. It may be beneficial to use a professional to carry out the fire risk assessment.

The fire risk assessment should include the following steps:

  1. Identify fire hazards, including:
  • Sources of ignition (e.g. electrical equipment and fireworks)
  • Sources of fuel (e.g. curtains, rubbish, scenery and gas supplies)
  • Sources of oxygen
  1. Identify people at risk, including:
  • Attendees (including vulnerable groups)
  • Staff and performers
  • Nearby individuals
  1. Evaluate the risks and decide on precautions, including:
  • Assess the likelihood and potential impact of a fire
  • Implement necessary fire safety measures (e.g. fire safety equipment, fire detection and warning systems, emergency lighting and escape routes)
  1. Record, plan and train
  • Document findings and actions taken
  • Develop an emergency plan
  • Train staff and volunteers in fire safety procedures
  1. Review
  • Review the assessment

Image of the 5 steps of conducting a fire risk assessment.

Next, we look in more detail at the preventative measures you can take for fire safety at events.

Preventive measures for fire safety at events

Preventive measures should include:

  • Installation of fire alarm systems to detect and alert people early in case of fire and the use of automated fire detection systems such as smoke detectors and heat sensors.
  • The use of fire suppression systems, including sprinklers and water-based extinguishers (water, water additive or foam) helps contain fires before they escalate. The choice of fire extinguishers should be based on the specific risks present (such as whether electrical equipment is present) and all fire extinguishers need to be easily accessible and in a good working order.

Somebody checking fire extinguishers

  • Clear signage. accessible evacuation routes, clear access to fire exits and the assignment of assembly points.
  • Separate ignition sources from fuel sources (e.g. smoking areas, vegetation and flammable liquids, gas and LPG containers).
  • Regular maintenance and PAT testing of electrical equipment.
  • Use of flame-retardant materials in scenery, curtains and temporary structures like marquees.
  • Adhere to the guidelines of having one fire warden for every 250 people.
  • All fire wardens must be appropriately trained and all staff must understand their fire duties.

In summary, fire safety at events should be an integral part of your event planning process to ensure the safety of all attendees and the property, this includes understanding your legal fire safety obligations, conducting detailed fire risk assessments, implementing fire safety preventive measures and ensuring effective emergency response strategies.

More resources

HM Government – Fire safety risk assessment open air events and venues

Gov.UK – Fire safety: guidance for those with legal duties

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) – Guidance on running events safely

London Fire Brigade – Fire safety guidance for organisers of small scale events under the Licensing Act 2003: Temporary Event Notices

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  • Fire Safety