Event Safety – Guidance and Advice            Glenys Ferguson 22/3/06



Clearly the approach to safety depends on the event in question. A small schools event in a town park in the summer raises very different safety concerns from a major winter competition on a remote and exposed open area. It is not therefore possible to propose a single approach to event safety. Instead the notes below – which have evolved out of the safety preparations for the (aborted) Whitbarrow National event in March 2006 – aim to stimulate thinking about the issues, provide advice and recommendations. 


An Organiser has a duty of care, which means taking steps which are considered reasonable in the circumstances to ensure safety. It is therefore important that an Organiser explicitly reviews this aspect, not just to promote event safety, but also to guard against charges of negligence  and the threat of litigation. The approach to safety should be two fold:


1.      The Organiser should consider how the number of casualties and their seriousness can be kept to a minimum,


2.      If (when) casualties do occur, the Organiser must be able to deal with them in a prompt and effective manner.


A number of forms were developed for the National Event. They are held as separate word files by the Secretary and also alongside the SROC printer:


a.       Vehicle key storage

b.      Record of Finishers

c.       Missing/injured competitor report form

d.      Incident log

e.       Unattended vehicles

f.        Searchers Monitor


(The Organiser should also have all controls maps available, and ready access to maps of specific courses if a search becomes necessary.)



Factors to consider in determining the extent and nature of safety provision:


·        The competition area – nature of the terrain, weather exposure, proximity or otherwise of car parking, start etc., time taken to summon external assistance, such as Mountain Rescue


·        The anticipated number of competitors, their ages and degree of experience


·        The time of year and sunset time relative to the time of courses close



Groups whose safety needs to be explicitly considered:


·        Competitors:

o       injuries

o       hypothermia/hyperthermia

o       missing

o       other issues (e.g. heart attacks and other illnesses, poisoning by drinks)


·        Competitors’ travelling companions, spectators


·        Event officials

o       injuries (e.g .control collectors, parking)

o       hypothermia/hyperthermia (e.g. Start team)

o       missing (e.g. control collectors)


·        General public


·        Children – Child protection was not an issue for the National Event, so no specific advice is provided here. Organiser should liaise with other SROC members who are experienced in dealing with children and schools events.



Basic Requirements:


For all events:

o       Organiser and Planner should be aware of the BOF Rules and guidelines relating to Event Safety.

o       Organiser should check that the event has been registered with BOF to ensure public liability insurance cover.

o       A BOF risk assessment form must be completed

o       Adequate records must be available for any incident that might result in a claim against BOF insurance. BOF Incident Report Form should be completed – within a week – for “any injury which, in a place of employment would be recorded in an Accident Book..”  (Note: this report form also applies to cases of property damage.)

o       Appropriate first aid provision

o       Organiser must have systems in place to deal with:

o       Injuries on the competition area

o       Reports of missing competitors

In each case, the suggested starting point is to:

·        Complete a Missing/Injured Competitor Report form to collate intelligence (form available)

·        Start an Incident Log (form available) to record actions taken

·        Relate information to an all controls map

·        Locate any fellow travellers and/or contact details



For larger events or any judged to be higher risk:

o       Consider the appointment of a Safety Officer.

This does not remove the duty on the Organiser to take responsibility. However, it does mean someone is specifically and independently reviewing arrangements from a safety viewpoint. On the day, the Safety Officer can coordinate safety checks and arrangements for dealing with casualties etc, whilst the Organiser concentrates on the overall functioning of the event. Whilst the Planner and the Controller are responsible for safety on the competition area and have the detailed knowledge of the terrain and its problems to make the judgments here,  the Safety Officer may also be able to make a contribution. Safety Officer can also take on the task of liaising with organisations such as St John and Mountain Rescue.




Good communications are essential to event safety, but may be difficult to provide. Radios should be backed up by mobile phones. Establish the availability and strength of radio and mobile phone signals from key areas.  Provide all principal team members with a list of mobile phone numbers and allocation of radios. Consider alternative ways of raising assistance if radios and mobile phones do not work in a particular area.


Teams going out to deal with a casualty on the competition area should have a mobile phone for their own safety and also so that they can make direct contact with the emergency services if necessary.



Preventative Measures:

1.                  Event Flyers and Final Details

o       Spell out to competitors the nature of the event and any particular hazards, so that they can take adequate steps to ensure their own safety. Well-informed competitors is a key element, so ensure that everyone has access to final details and also that Enquiries/Registration are conversant with their contents.

o       Add the reminder that: “Competitors take part at their own risk and are responsible for their own safety”

o       Remind all competitors to download, even if they retire.

o       Remind competitors to dress appropriately for the current and anticipated weather conditions on the day.

o       State situation as regards whistles and/or cagoules. If there is a possibility that cagoules might be made compulsory, then competitors must be aware of this before they arrive at the event.

o       State whether there is a clothing dump or transfer.

o       Advise lone competitors to use the buddy system or deposit vehicle keys (Vehicle key storage form available – to support this, envelopes and storage box need to be provided by SROC)


2.                  Registration

  • Should be proactive in ensuring that competitors select courses that are suitable for their age and experience, and appropriate given the conditions on the day

o       Should avoid giving  novices late start times, particularly on longer courses.


3.                  Whistles and Cagoules

If these are compulsory:

o       Competitors need to be made aware of this before they make their way to the Start

o       It must be enforced, with a thorough check of all competitors. Anyone who insists on starting without, should have their name taken and reported to the Controller.



4.                  Event Officials

o       Organisers must ensure that team leaders and all team members are well briefed and appropriately prepared for their task, and – in turn – have thoroughly briefed their teams. In particular, identify any inexperienced helpers who may require more detailed guidance and information (including advice on appropriate clothing, adequate food and drink). 

o       Helpers should be reminded not take actions that would compromise their own safety.

o       Any potentially dangerous electrical or other equipment should be checked for safety before the event and only be handled by those with suitable experience.

o       Anyone going out onto the competition area to deal with a casualty should ensure they have food/drink/clothing as appropriate for their own needs.

o       Adequate shelter must be provided for teams.

o       All  members of the parking team must wear high visibility vests.

o       No-one should drive off-road without explicit permission, and should be in a suitable vehicle and have appropriate experience.

o       Helpers intending to run long courses or who are inexperienced should not be late starters.

  • Those putting out and collecting controls should be checked in and out by the Planner, who should have a record of the areas that they are covering. They should carry a mobile phone.

o       Organiser should have contact details for helpers (SROC membership list)




Provision for Dealing with Casualties


Do not assume that there will only be one casualty.


1.      SROC emergency rucksack

The club has at least one rucksack containing a first aid kit and shelter/sleeping bag etc for dealing with/preventing hypothermia. Inform the Equipment Officer if anything is used so that it can be replaced. 


2.      SROC First Aiders

The club has a number of people with first aid qualifications and experience who may be prepared to deal with casualties either at the Finish or out on the competition area. Unless adjacent to Assembly, the Finish should be manned and able to summon first aid assistance. The more remote the Finish, the more important it is that there are first aiders at the Finish to treat or stabilise walking wounded or go out into the competition area to deal with casualties.


3.      Medic

Members with medical training may be useful in providing advice (for instance, on moving a casualty or treatment of a heart attack). Note: they may be unfamiliar with the practicalities of first aid.


4.      St John Ambulance

Competitors will expect the presence of St John or equivalent at larger events. They have an important role in dealing with casualties that can make their own way off the competition area for treatment. Do not expect St John members to be either capable or prepared to go out onto the competition area. Prior liaison is advised to establish what role they might play (e.g. they may bring a Land Rover) but regard any extra flexibility they might give as a bonus.


5.      Mountain Rescue

The attitude towards attending an event seems to vary between teams. Kendal Mountain Rescue, for instance, will not provide cover on the day (unless they can be persuaded with enough prior notice to build the event into their training schedule). (And, of course, they could be called off to another emergency.) For larger events, or anywhere with specific safety concerns, Mountain Rescue should be briefed in advance. Provide location details, information about vehicle access onto the competition area, all controls maps (could be collected on the day if appropriate) and mobile phone number of an event contact on the day. Call out Mountain Rescue through the Police, by dialing 999.




Treatment of Casualties in the Competition  Area:


There are three elements:


a)      locate

b)      stabilise the condition and prevent hypothermia

c)      evacuate


SROC needs to deal with a) and b). 



Casualties who cannot walk unaided must be evacuated by the emergency services. In the interim, the casualty must be kept warm and made as comfortable as possible, without causing further injury.


SROC should only evacuate if the casualty is able to make his/her own way safely off the competition area. In this case, the casualty may need to go to nearest vehicle pick-up point. Casualty should not be moved until pick-up arrangements have been determined.


In advance of the event, the Organiser should have identified access points for vehicles (e.g. Mountain Rescue) and points where walking wounded could be guided off the competition area for collection by vehicle.



Travelling Companions

o       Need to be contacted and informed as soon as possible

o       Should not be allowed to go out into the competition area in the case of a casualty/missing competitor


If competitor is a lone traveller may need to contact relatives. At larger events, entry list details should be used. 



Identifying Missing Competitors:


1.      Reports from fellow travellers


2.      Checks of:

a.       Vehicle keys uncollected (at intervals during the day as well as when courses close) (Vehicle key storage form available)

b.      Vehicles remaining in parking field (Parking checks form available)

c.       Hired e-cards outstanding



3.      Checks of Finishers against Starters:


o       To overcome any delay consequent on a significant distance between the Finish and Download, arrangements should be made for the Finish team to radio-in details of those finishing, starting this process in the half hour before courses close. (Record of Finishers form available.)


o       If using Sport Ident: Interrogate check boxes to compare starters against competitors who have downloaded. Start team must be explicitly reminded to check the e-card of every starter, including helpers, and to transfer the check boxes to Download. Download must be located and set up to ensure that no-one can bypass the system and that there is no temptation for a competitor to delay downloading. Must also have a system in place to deal for helpers who do not go to Download immediately after running.


o       If using control cards: Match control cards with stubs. This requires all stubs to be completed – best to make this an explicit task for Registration (even if this means increasing the size of the team). Start team must collect stubs for every starter, including helpers, and should check that they are filled in. Return of stubs to Results processing must be frequent. 


o       Use of start lists on which the starter is ticked off and then reconciled with finishers is not recommended.  There are problems in wet weather; errors – forgetting to tick off, ticking off the wrong person, missing late starters; colour coded (EODs) need to be added; need to be passed to Finish or Results at regular intervals (and before the competitor has finished); would be very difficult to manage if switched to a punching start.



Actions in the Case of Missing Competitors:


1.                  Reported While the Event is in Progress:

At the height of the event, there is a large chance of problems out on the course being noted and reported by competitors:


·        Brief Finish team to question Finishers

·        Alert Planner and any other officials out in the competition area

·        Alert Download to inform if/when the competitor checks in

·        Alert Mountain Rescue if there is a particular cause for concern or competitor has still not finished after a reasonable length of time.



2.         Search Mounted by SROC:

It is advised that only minimal searching should be undertaken by SROC. SROC has neither the skills, communications nor manpower to conduct a major search. Search teams must not be allowed to go out unless they are fit and well prepared, have mobile phones and carry enough kit to support their own personal safety. They must be checked in and out.


Searching  by SROC would be started towards the end of the competition. It is recommended that it takes three forms:


  • Organised and monitored by the Planner as part of the control collection process. Control collectors should be alert for potential missing competitors, and have been briefed about any specific concerns. (Planner to liaise with Organiser or Safety Officer). Should have a mobile phone, but otherwise nature of the control collection task precludes the carrying of any emergency kit. Should report in/summon help if they find a missing or injured competitor. Planner should report negative outcomes to Organiser.


  • Organised and monitored by the Organiser or Safety Officer. Check of competitor’s course and environs, including particular hazards, calling out for the person. Split course into appropriate sections, each to be covered by a pair of searchers. These searchers should take with them (or have ready access to) emergency kit as well as having a mobile phone to summon help and to be called back if competitor has been located. Course check should be started soon after courses close. It may overlap with checks by control collectors. (Searchers moitor form available.)


  • Vehicle check of perimeter roads for any competitors who have made their way off the fell onto the nearest road.


Friends and relatives of the missing person should not be allowed to participate in any search. Potential searchers should ideally be identified in advance, and asked to report in to the Organiser/Safety Officer when courses close.



3.         Calling in the Police/Mountain Rescue:


Call out should be made sooner rather than later. This will generate a police incident number and minimise delays in receiving help. Incident can always be cancelled.


Call out should usually be done by the Organiser or Safety Officer. If this is impractical or inappropriate, it can be done by anyone and the Organiser/Safety Officer advised of actions as soon as possible.


Circumstances when Police/Mountain Rescue would be called include :


·        If SROC personnel are unable to mount any searches


·        If SROC is having to deal with several incidents


·        If searches by SROC fail to locate a missing competitor


·        If weather or daylight or the likely condition of the casualty are such that any delay in locating the missing competitor could be problematic


Police/Mountain Rescue should also be called in to evacuate any injured competitors who cannot make their own way off the competition area.