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FEMA IS-15.B: Special Events Contingency Planning For Public Safety Agencies Course Summary

Lesson 1: What Is a Special Event?

Course Welcome

This course introduces you to planning for or conducting a special event. At the end of this course, you should be able to:

  • Define a special event.
  • Identify the hazards and associated risks to address when planning for any event.
  • Describe the importance of pre-event planning and determine who should be included on the planning team.
  • List the key issues you should consider during the pre-event planning process.
  • Identify three spectator management and crowd-control issues.
  • Describe the special risks associated with high-profile or controversial events.
  • Describe why the Incident Command System (ICS) should be used to manage special events.
  • Match the tasks that must be completed during any event to the agency with responsibility for the task.
  • Determine when specific types of events require special planning considerations.


Getting Ready To Take This Course

This course is divided into six instructional lessons and a summary and posttest lesson. A lesson list will be presented at the beginning and end of each lesson to help you keep track of your place within the course.

A Job Aid Manual accompanies this course. The Job Aid Manual includes additional information about planning for special events and a comprehensive list of job aids to help you through the planning process. The Job Aid Manual provides guidance only. The Job Aids are for guidance only. You should follow State, tribal, and local ordinances and laws.


Lesson Overview

This lesson describes what constitutes a special event and provides examples of special events. The lesson includes guidelines to follow for identifying special events, while emphasizing the demand for community resources. The process of determining what constitutes a special event, then completing comprehensive planning, is important because:

  • Special events are often high visibility and the community’s reputation is on the line.
  • Costs for response and recovery for incidents involving special events can be extremely high.


Lesson Objectives

At the end of this lesson, you should be able to:

  • Define a special event.
  • Identify examples of special events.


What Is a Special Event?

To begin planning for your event, it’s important to first determine whether your community considers the event to be a special event. In general, a special event is defined as a nonroutine activity within a community that brings together a large number of people. However, determining what does or does not constitute a special event for your community is not always as simple as applying a definition.

To determine whether your community considers an event to be a special event, emphasis should be placed on your community’s ability to respond to the exceptional demands that the event places on response services rather than on the total number of people attending the event.

Addressing the following questions can help your community make a determination:

  • Is the event out of the ordinary or nonroutine?
    A nonroutine event is usually considered a special event.
  • Does the event place a strain on community resources?
    A strain on community resources usually indicates a special event.
  • Does the event attract a large number of people?
    A large number of people may, but does not necessarily, constitute a special event.
  • Does the event require permitting or additional planning, preparation, and mitigation efforts of local agencies?
    Additional planning, preparedness, and mitigation efforts on the part of local emergency management and public safety agencies usually indicate a special event.

Each community’s resources are different. What may be classified as a special event in one community may not place a strain on resources in another community.

Remember, a special event:

  • Is nonroutine.
  • Places a strain on community resources.
  • May involve a large number of people.
  • Requires special permitting or additional planning, preparation, and mitigation.

Next, you will learn about various types of special events.


What Is a Special Event?

As you learned in the video, a special event is defined as a nonroutine activity within a community that brings together a large number of people.

A special event:

  • Is nonroutine.
  • Places a strain on community resources.
  • May involve a large number of people.
  • Requires special permits or additional planning, preparation, and mitigation.

Each community’s resources and laws, ordinances, and permitting process are different. Be sure to review your community’s special event and mass gathering laws and permitting process to get specific information.


Examples of Special Events

Some examples of traditional community special events include:

  • Carnivals.
  • Fairs.
  • Fireworks displays.
  • Parades.


Other Examples of Special Events

Other examples of special events include:

Air Events

Air events might include:

  • Air shows (acrobatic maneuvers by aircraft, flyovers, and formations).
  • Hot air balloon festivals and races.
  • Parachute jumps.

Aquatic Events

Aquatic events might include:

  • Surfing competitions and demonstrations.
  • Watercraft maneuvers.
  • Watercraft races (powerboats, sailboats, jet skis).
  • Water skiing shows and races.
  • Windsurfing competitions and demonstrations.


Concerts might take place inside and/or outdoors. Concerts may involve:

  • Single performers.
  • Groups or multiple performers.
  • Single or multiple venues.
  • Single or multiple performances.


Conventions might include:

  • Single-day or multiple-day events.
  • Single or multiple sites.


Festivals might include:

  • Art festivals.
  • Balloon festivals (see air events).
  • Dance festivals.
  • Music festivals.
  • Thematic festivals (Renaissance festivals, rodeos).

Motorized Events

Motorized events might include:

  • Auto demonstrations and races.
  • Motorcycle demonstrations and races.

Political Rallies

Political rallies might include:

  • Marches or protests.
  • VIP visits.
  • Campaign rallies or debates.

Political rallies may be:

  • Single-day or multiple-day events.
  • Single or multiple sites.

Special Sporting Events

Special sporting events are those that do not regularly occur in a community. For example, a college basketball game involves many people, but because it is a recurring event, community resources are prepared and can usually handle almost any contingency.

Examples of special sporting events might include:

  • Bicycle tours and races.
  • Marathons and walk-a-thons.
  • Regional, national, and international competitions (e.g., Olympics, track and field, volleyball, World Cup).

Spontaneous Events

Spontaneous events are unplanned. Often even spontaneous celebratory events can be out of control. Local officials should anticipate and prepare for spontaneous events such as:

  • Celebrations following a large and/or championship sporting event (college bowl games, the World Series, or the Super Bowl).
  • Controversial court decisions.

Lesson Summary

This lesson described what constitutes a special event and provided examples of special events. It will also presented guidelines to follow for identifying special events, while emphasizing the demand for community resources.

The next lesson will introduce the importance of planning and how planning relates to the success of an event. It will discuss when communities should begin planning for a special event and will introduce the concept of involving a team of key personnel in the pre-event planning process. It will also discuss the process for organizing the planning team meeting and present common special issues related to pre-event planning.



Lesson 2: Pre-Event Planning

Lesson Overview

This lesson will introduce the importance of planning and how planning relates to the success of an event. The lesson will describe:

  • When communities should begin planning for a special event.
  • The concept of involving a team of key personnel in the pre-event planning process.
  • The process for organizing the planning team meeting.
  • Common special issues related to pre-event planning.

Remember that local, tribal, and State laws, ordinances, and regulations always take precedent when planning for special events.


Lesson Objectives

At the end of this lesson, you should be able to:

  • Describe the importance of pre-event planning to public safety and the overall community.
  • Determine who should take part in the planning process.
  • Develop a strategy for gaining the community’s cooperation for pre-event planning.
  • List the key issues to be considered during the pre-event planning process.


Importance of Planning

Planning any event is difficult. Planning for the potential risks and hazards associated with large public events is even more difficult, but critical to the success of an event.

Planning for large public events has often failed to occur, or when planning did occur, it often failed to identify the potential for disaster, or strategies to mitigate or cope with a major incident. As a result, injuries and deaths have occurred consistently and over a wide range of countries and types of events.

Throughout the United States, at any given time of year, there are festivals, concerts, fairs, sporting events, and many other special events that gather or have the potential to gather large crowds. Under normal conditions, these special events occur with few or no problems. If an incident does occur, then local emergency management is called upon to respond.

Before scheduling a special event, key factors to consider are the:

  • Scope of the event.
  • Risks to spectators and participants.
  • Impact on the community.
  • Emergency support required.

Certain types of special events are often associated with particular risks or potential problems. For instance, highly competitive sports events, rock concerts, and festivals tend to produce spectator-generated incidents, while air shows and auto races tend to produce participant-generated incidents.

Having a pre-event plan in place will reduce local emergency management response times and better enable agencies to improvise because contingencies have been discussed beforehand. A pre-event plan defines roles and responsibilities in advance and creates ownership of potential problems for agencies involved in the process.

If you want those who attend an event to have positive memories of it, you need to plan the event carefully, keeping public safety in mind. This lesson will cover those issues that should be addressed in the very early stages of planning or even when discussing promoting or sponsoring such an event.


The Importance of Planning

Planning for any event may be challenging. However, planning for the potential risks and hazards associated with large public events is critical to public safety and the success of any such event.

Before scheduling a special event, planners should consider the:

  • Scope of the event.
  • Risks to spectators and participants.
  • Impact on the community.
  • Emergency support required.



Many communities require event promoters or sponsers to obtain permits before holding an event. Permits help the planning process by:

  • Notifying the community formally of the intent to hold an event.
  • Providing details about the event, such as venue, anticipated audience characteristics, and the intent to sell food or merchandise.

Reviewing information on the permit request can provide the planning team with a head start on event preparedness.


The Planning Team

Planning for a special event should begin well in advance of the event. One of the first steps is to bring together those who are hosting the event with those responsible for public safety.

A multidisciplinary planning team should be composed of the promoter or sponsor and all agencies that hold a functional stake in the event, such as:

  • Emergency Management.
  • Law Enforcement.
  • Fire and Rescue.
  • Public Works/Utilities.
  • Public Health.
  • Transportation Authority

It’s important to remember that all involved agencies need to participate on the planning team from the outset to ensure a successful and safe event.

Because different agencies will comprise the planning team, the lead agency should be identified early in the process.

In some communities, the lead agency for public safety planning is the emergency management agency. If this is the case, emergency management will typically lead the way in coordinating the event planning effort.


Advantages of a Team Approach

A team approach to planning offers many advantages, including:

  • A Sense of Ownership. The plan is more likely to be used and followed if the tasked organizations have a sense that the plan is “theirs.”
  • Greater Access to Resources. Greater knowledge and expertise are brought to bear on the planning effort when more people are involved.
  • Forming Cooperative Relationships. Closer professional relationships that are developed during the planning process should translate into better cooperation and coordination during the actual event and any emergencies that may arise.


Promoters or Sponsors

Event promoters or sponsors must be involved in all phases of planning to ensure a successful event. Some promoters or sponsors may be more interested in monetary gain than in public safety. If this appears to be their primary goal, local agency participation is essential. Teamwork promotes successful and safe events.

Ways to encourage promoter participation and ensure public safety at an event might include:

  • Requiring promoter attendance at planning meetings to gain the necessary permit(s) to host the event.
  • Building public agency regulatory oversight of the promoter into the permit process so that relevant community laws or regulations are followed.
  • Requiring the promoter to have adequate contingency plans in place before approving an event.

By working together, the needs of all involved in the event can be met.


Community Cooperation: Mutual Aid

During pre-event planning, each agency on the planning team should review its resources to ensure that all necessary equipment is available. If additional equipment is needed, agencies may need to acquire the equipment or supplies to prepare for the event.

One way for agencies to acquire equipment is to work together with neighboring communities by adopting a local mutual aid and assistance agreement program. A local mutual aid and assistance agreement program allows neighboring communities to pool resources and share liability for damages or loss of equipment.


Community Cooperation: Public-Private Partnerships

Another way that communities can acquire needed equipment or supplies is through public-private partnerships. A public-private partnership is a contractual agreement between a public agency (local, tribal, State, or Federal) and a corporation.

The skills and assets of each party (public and private) are shared in delivering a service or facility for the use of the general public. In addition to the sharing of resources, each party, together with the promoter or sponsor, shares in the risks-and-rewards potential in the delivery of the service and/or facility.


Community Cooperation: Other Established Agreements

It is important that the agencies involved in planning an event know the agreements established between neighboring communities and between communities and private corporations. Agreements may already be established and included as a part of the local Emergency Operations Plan (EOP).

Knowing what resources are available and what agreements are in place will assist with planning the special event and in responding to any unforeseen incidents.


Local Agencies

Although agencies will differ from community to community, certain types of local agencies should always be included in pre-event planning. The types of agencies can include:

  • Organizations and agencies representing people with disabilities.
  • Emergency services and public safety agencies.
  • Health agencies and medical community representatives.
  • Legal counsel.
  • Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPCs).
  • Public works agencies and utility companies.
  • Purchasing and procurement agencies.

Local Agencies: Potential Services Provided

Agency Description
Aging Works with local Area Agencies on Aging as well as various other public and private organizations to help older persons and their families find the services and information they need.
Agriculture Promotes their jurisdiction’s agricultural products; encourages production; and ensures consumer, livestock, and plant safety.
Art Supports and stimulates excellence in all the arts, supports and stimulates full cultural and ethnic diversity in all the arts, and ensures that the arts are accessible to all.
Attorneys General Serve as legal counselors to agencies and legislatures and as representatives of the public interest. Attorneys General occupy the intersection of law and public policy, consulting in areas such as child-support enforcement, drug policy, and environmental protection.
Banking Oversees varied business and economic interests. The authority encompasses utilities, insurance, State-chartered financial institutions, securities, retail franchising, and railroads. Serves as the central filing office for corporations, limited partnerships, limited liability companies, business trusts, and Uniform Commercial Code filings.
Consumer Protection Provides consumer protection services, real estate fraud and information programs, small-claims court advisor programs, dispute settlement services, cable television franchising, adult protective services, fraud protection programs, volunteer and internship programs, and public information and community outreach services. Educates on issues related to consumption and encourages positive consumer-to-business relationships that foster a fair and vigorous marketplace.
Disability Promotes and improves awareness, availability, and accessibility of information that can help people with disabilities live, learn, love, work, and play independently.
Drug Establishes policies, priorities, and objectives for the Nation’s drug-control program (reduce illicit drug use, manufacturing, and trafficking; drug-related crime and violence; and drug-related health consequences).
Economic Development and Commerce Partners with communities to advance their economic development efforts. Markets a jurisdiction’s business climate, strategic location, workforce, and natural and cultural resources. Offers economic development incentives and information to enhance a community’s ability to compete, diversify, and prosper.
Education Provides leadership, assistance, oversight, and resources so that every student has access to an education that meets world-class standards. Oversees the jurisdiction’s diverse and dynamic public school system. Enforces education law and regulations. Reforms and improves public elementary school programs, secondary school programs, adult education, some preschool programs, and childcare programs.
Election Ensures uniformity, fairness, accuracy, and purity in all elections. Promotes the proper administration of election laws, campaign finance disclosure compliance, and voter registration processes by promulgating rules and regulations, issuing instructions, and providing information to electoral boards and general registrars.
Emergency Management Coordinates all activities necessary to protect communities from natural, technological, and manmade disasters and other emergencies that threaten the jurisdiction. Coordinates Emergency Management Services by providing leadership, planning, education, and resources to protect lives, property, and the environment. Coordinates the response of agencies, in times of emergency or disasters, ensuring that the most appropriate resources are dispatched to the impacted area. Works with local governments, voluntary organizations, and the private sector to develop disaster preparedness plans and mitigation projects, and provides training and exercise activities.
Environment and Natural Resource Protects human health and the environment.
Fish and Wildlife Conserves, protects, and enhances fish, wildlife, and plants and their habitats.
Health and Medical Community Promotes and protects the health and safety of all people through the delivery of quality public health services and the promotion of health care standards.
Historic Preservation Coordinates and supports public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect our historic and archeological resources.
Housing and Community Development Administers affordable housing and community development programs. Creates affordable housing and safe, viable communities that enhance the quality of life for all, especially those of low and moderate income.
Insurance Regulates the insurance industry and assists consumers and other stakeholders with insurance issues that are important to them.
Labor and Employment Fosters and promotes the welfare of job seekers, wage earners, and retirees by improving their working conditions; advancing their opportunities for profitable employment; protecting their retirement and health care benefits; helping employers find workers; strengthening free collective bargaining; and tracking changes in employment, prices, and other economic measurements.
Libraries Operates the primary research library for the jurisdiction. Collects and preserves materials about the jurisdiction and its history. Provides electronic access to library materials housed in the jurisdiction’s libraries. Acts as the jurisdiction’s publisher or distributor of official records and periodicals. Maintains and circulates special collections, such as “Talking Books” for blind and physically impaired citizens or e-books. Provides telephone or online reference services. Operates literacy or reading programs.
Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPCs) Develops, trains, and tests a hazardous substances emergency response plan for the jurisdiction. Develops procedures for regulated facilities to provide notification of a hazardous release to the LEPC. Develops procedures for receiving and processing community right-to-know requests from the public. Provides for public notification of committee activities.
Motor Vehicle Issues vehicle registrations and titles; examines and licenses drivers; administers financial responsibility, mandatory insurance, and driver improvement programs; conducts administrative reviews under “drunk driver” laws; and provides records management for all of these functions.
Public Safety Operates the jurisdiction’s highway patrol or police and their training facilities, which may include the bureau of investigation, crime lab, division of fire safety, commercial carrier inspection, and weight load management office; office of narcotics enforcement; or State public safety telecommunications network.
Public Utilities and Public Service Regulates businesses that provide telephone, cable communications, electricity, gas, oil, and other utilities, with the aim of providing consumer protection to the jurisdiction’s citizens.
Purchasing and Procurement Oversees procurement policy and procedures and ensures the integrity of the jurisdiction’s procurement system.
Securities Protects investors against securities fraud and provides aggressive enforcement actions against any firm or individual who has violated the statutes to the detriment of investors. Provides for the licensing and regulation of securities broker-dealers, agents, investment advisers, and investment adviser representatives and financial planners. Promotes financial literacy.
Social Service Improves the quality of life for citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, and protecting vulnerable populations.
Surplus Property Receives, warehouses, and redistributes personal property that is surplus. Screens, warehouses, and distributes surplus property allocated from military installations.
Tax and Revenue Collects revenues and administers programs to fund public services, and advocates sound tax policy. Promotes fairness, consistency, and uniformity in the development and application of tax law and policy. Promotes correct and timely payment of taxes through education and enforcement.
Tourism Promotes travel and tourism.
Transportation Builds, maintains, and operates the roads, bridges, and tunnels. Provides funding for airports, seaports, rail, and other public transportation.
Treasurer Serves as guardian of the taxpayers’ money that is used to operate governments and provide services.
Utility Creates and maintains a regulatory environment that ensures safe, reliable, and efficient utility services at fair and reasonable rates.
Vocational and Rehabilitation Coordinates and provides counseling, evaluation, and job placement services for people with disabilities.
Weights and Measures Assures that equity prevails in the marketplace for both buyer and seller. Inspects commercial weighing and measuring devices for accuracy, including large truck scales at local grain elevators; livestock scales; computing scales at supermarkets; and meters used to measure bulk deliveries of refined fuels, liquefied petroleum gases, and service station dispensers. Checks the accuracy of packaged products sold by weight, measure, or count.


Local Leaders

Although community leadership differs from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, community leaders should always be included in pre-event planning. Some types of community leaders include the:

  • City Manager.
  • Community relations officials.
  • Emergency services officials (fire, emergency medical services, and police).
  • Mayors, city council members, and other elected officials.

Community Leadership Roles

Leadership Description
City Manager Directs and supervises the administration of all departments, offices, and agencies of the city, except as otherwise provided in the city’s charter. Advises the city council regarding the financial condition of the city, its future needs, and all matters related to its proper administration. Proposes and submits an annual budget to the city council and, after approval, implements the budget. Implements city policy as determined by the Mayor and city council by providing management and administrative support.
Community Relations Officials Manage a complete communications program to keep residents and the media informed of municipal services and activities. Employ a variety of print and electronic resources, including a community newsletter, special brochures and informational materials, news releases and media advisories, video and cable television, telephone bulletin boards, multimedia kiosks, and the Internet. Ensure an educated and involved citizenry and an alert media by providing information on city programs and activities through timely and efficient communication methods.
Emergency Services Officials Coordinate all activities necessary to protect communities from natural, technological, and manmade disasters and other emergencies that threaten the jurisdiction. Coordinate emergency management services by providing leadership, planning, education, and resources to protect lives, property, and the environment. In times of emergency or disaster, coordinate the response by ensuring that the most appropriate resources are dispatched to the impacted area. Work with local governments, voluntary organizations, and the private sector to develop disaster preparedness plans and mitigation projects, and provide training and exercise activities.
Mayors Direct city departments and appoint department heads, with the advice and consent of the city council. Submit budgets to city councils. Preside at city council meetings and vote in the event of a tie. Approve or veto ordinances passed by the city council and have the power to veto whole ordinances or parts of appropriations bills. May also appoint members of city boards and commissions.
City Council Members, and Other Elected Officials Responsible to the city’s residents for all municipal programs and services, as well as local policy decisions affecting city residents in a wide number of areas, including land use, solid waste, air quality, and protecting and enhancing the city’s revenue base.


Other Potential Planning Team Members

For specific types of special events, potential planning team members might include:

  • Animal care and control organizations.
  • The Chamber of Commerce.
  • Communications representatives.
  • Community services representatives and voluntary organizations.
  • Labor and professional organizations.
  • Private-sector representatives.
  • School officials.

Other Team Member Roles

Leadership Description
Animal care and control organizations Deliver effective, courteous, and responsive animal care and control services to the residents of the community. Responsible for stray, injured, abandoned, neglected, and mistreated animals, as well as for the enforcement of all local and State animal control and welfare laws.
Aviation and coastal authorities Regulate and promote marine safety, recreational boating safety, and civil aviation safety; conduct search and rescue operations; and ensure port security.
Chamber of Commerce Provides community leadership; supports economic development, education, local government, and quality of life for the community. Promotes local business and displays what the community has to offer to prospective relocating families and businesses.
Public Information Officer Reports directly to the city administrator and is responsible for a city’s comprehensive, successful public information efforts to create a strategically planned network of coordinated outreach activities directed at the citizens. Implements and maintains the city’s communication programs, including local access cable TV, the World Wide Web, and the city newsletter, to deliver messages directly to the citizens most effectively. Oversees the city’s media relations efforts, while emphasizing the regular dissemination of news on the multitude of positive city programs, projects, and services.
Local media Create, report on, and disseminate print and multimedia content that educate, inform, engage, and inspire the public.
Community services representatives and voluntary organizations (American Red Cross, Lions Clubs, Shriners, Veterans of Foreign Wars, etc.) Offer community services that help the needy, provide support and comfort for military members and their families, and promote health and safety. Provide international relief and development programs. Foster self-improvement through leadership, education, the perpetuation of moral values, and community involvement. Work closely with national organizations. Promote constructive community service with volunteerism benefiting education, the environment, health sciences, and civic projects.
Industrial and military installations Oversee day-to-day operations, maintenance, safety, and security of industrial and military installations that may be present in and around communities.
Labor and professional organizations Represent persons employed in many fields and occupations. Provide sources of information on career options as well as training and education requirements and opportunities.
Private sector representatives Provide jobs and income to the community.
School board officials Provide leadership, assistance, oversight, and resources so that every student has access to an education that meets standards. Oversee the jurisdiction’s diverse and dynamic public school system. Enforce education law and regulations locally, and reform and improve public elementary school programs, secondary school programs, adult education, some preschool programs, and childcare programs.


The Initial Planning Team Meeting

All involved agencies need to participate on the planning team from the outset to ensure a successful and safe event.

At its initial meeting, the planning team should:

  • Develop a mission statement.
  • Develop event objectives.
  • Determine the necessary components of the public safety plan.


The Initial Planning Team Meeting—Planning Considerations

During the initial planning meeting, the planning team should consider:

  • The promoter’s or sponsoring organization’s purpose and experience.
  • Event risks (including crowds, staffing, food and shelter, parking, transportation, medical facilities).
  • Previous event concerns.
  • Relevant local concerns.
  • Weather.
  • Community impact.


Developing a Mission Statement

Every special event has a mission, purpose, or reason for taking place. Often the mission expresses why the special event is occurring.

An effective mission statement must:

  • Include public health and safety as a critical goal for the event.
  • Express the special event’s purpose in a way that inspires commitment and innovation.
  • Resonate with the people working on and for the special event, as well as with the various attendees that the event hopes to attract.


Developing a Mission Statement—Questions To Answer

At the very least, the mission statement should answer four key questions:

  1. What is the purpose of the special event?
  2. What are we doing to address the purpose?
  3. What benefits or values will result from the event?
  4. How will public health and safety be protected?

Examples of Special Event Mission Statements

Japanese Cultural Fair: The purpose of the Japanese Cultural Fair is to provide an opportunity, in a safe environment, for the community to increase its awareness and understanding of the Japanese community as well as Japanese culture, both traditional and contemporary. We believe that through an increased exposure to the arts, crafts, and culture of Japan, we can improve mutual understanding among neighbors as well as enrich our community life.

Old Days Rodeo: The Old Days Rodeo is a community project organized exclusively for the purpose of educating and informing the residents about agricultural matters in a safe environment. Annual public fairs, exhibitions, rodeos, and other special events offer the public a unique opportunity to be exposed to and informed about the many areas of agriculture, including livestock breeding and improvement of breeds, horticulture, horses, poultry, swine, and resource management and conservation.

Very Special Arts Festival: The mission of the Very Special Arts Festival is to provide a safe environment in which to develop quality programs throughout the State by integrating all of the arts into the lives and education of children, youth, and adults, especially those who are disadvantaged or have a disability.

Beach Park Music Festival: This Beach Park Music Festival showcases local and national talent during 3 days at Beach Park. There will be several stages of entertainment, interactive activities, vendors, food, beverages and much more—all in a controlled, safe environment.

Emerald Irish Festival: Bring the whole family and enjoy a day of Irish fun in a safe, family-friendly environment. The 1st Annual Emerald Irish Festival includes some of the finest traditional Irish bands along with authentic Irish food vendors, Irish dancers, face painting, and, of course, Irish drinks.

Hands-On Festival: The mission of the Hands-On Festival is to provide an opportunity for people of all ages to discover and enjoy the wonder of science, math, and technology in a safe, interactive environment that promotes science literacy through experimentation, exploration, and education.


Developing Event Objectives

The planning team will need to develop event objectives—statements describing the specific outcomes the event is designed to achieve. Objectives guide the planning process, set priorities, and establish criteria for event evaluation.

Developing well-written objectives can take practice, but a good rule of thumb is to make sure that the objectives are SMART:

Time Based

Examples of Objectives

Poorly Written Objectives Well-Written Objectives
Increase attendance for the Japanese Cultural Fair over last year. As a result of television, radio, and print ads, ticket sales for both days of the Japanese Cultural Fair will increase by 25% over last year.
Increase the number of contemporary Japanese cultural booths and exhibits. Increase the number of contemporary Japanese cultural booths and exhibits by 10 percent over last year.
Increase accessibility of the Japanese Cultural Fair. Increase accessibility of the Japanese Cultural Fair for all physically disabled attendees by:

  • Placing accessible walkways and ramps en route to all booths and exhibits.
  • Lowering the height of all exhibit tables.
Attendees at the Japanese Cultural Fair will be able to state the purpose of the event. During a random survey of attendees, 4 out of 5 attendees at the Japanese Cultural Fair will be able to state the purpose of the event when asked.

Remember, your objectives must be SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time based.


Special Issues in Pre-Event Planning

Some common special issues related to pre-event planning include:

  • The permit-approval process.
  • Legal issues.
  • Liability issues.
  • Political issues.
  • Economic issues.
  • Attendee issues.

Special issues will be covered in greater detail on the following screens. Attendee issues will be covered in Lesson 4.


The Permit-Approval Process

Event promoters or sponsors must usually gain approval from local, and sometimes State, authorities to hold public events. The information below should be available to the promoters before beginning the permit-approval process:

  • Identity of the approving authority and any other authorities actively involved in the approval process.
  • Relevant statutes, ordinances, codes, and standards (i.e., life safety codes) existing for special events and mass gatherings.
  • Documentation required to support their application.
  • Insurance, bond, and liability information.
  • Relevant deadlines for filing applications.

Some communities offer “One-Stop Shopping” for permitting. The person requesting an event completes an application at one office and the information is forwarded to the appropriate agencies for approval.

Thus, the person requesting the event does not have to track down the appropriate agencies to make a request. This ensures that all required agencies are notified and can consider the request before the permit is issued.

Promoters should be aware of the approving authority’s timetable for approving events and issuing permits. Potential delays should be included in the event planning schedule.


Legal Issues

Some form of legislation usually governs or restricts public events or aspects of them. Some events, particularly extremely large or high-impact events, require special State or local legislation. Local ordinances provide health and medical guidelines.

Promoters should consider obtaining legal advice early in the planning stage. Items that warrant consideration include actual or potential liability for:

  • Injuries.
  • Acts or omissions.
  • Costs incurred in responding to major emergencies occasioned by the event.
  • Effects of the event on normal emergency operations.

Most communities have adopted a “User Pays” policy for services provided at sporting and entertainment events. Others require the promoter or sponsor to submit an amount to be held in escrow until after the event.

“User Pays” policies help to offset the costs of public services at special events by charging for the use of those services when under normal circumstances, those services would be free. Escrow funds are up-front fees to ensure compliance with requirements and to offset potential damage or injury that occurs as a result of the event.

Event promoters should consult local and State authorities to determine relevant fee structures and charges for services provided, including payment of overtime costs for personnel.

Examples of “User Pay” Policies

Emergency Medical and Police Services: Under normal circumstances, emergency medical and police services are free to taxpayers. During special events, participants and attendees may be required to pay a fee to help offset the costs to the community for having emergency medical and police services available. Fees may be in the form of entrance fees to users, additional participant fees to exhibitors, or fees charged specifically to the users of the services. For example, if the police are called to break up a fight between spectators at a soccer match, the persons involved in the fight might be charged a fee for the use of the police in this special circumstance.

Search and Rescue Services: To help offset the costs to communities and taxpayers, some communities have instituted “User Pay” policies for search and rescue services. Search and rescue services are very costly. Often persons requiring these services are ill prepared for the elements (e.g., did not have inclement weather gear, maps, or compasses or global positioning systems, etc.) or disregarded posted warnings and advisory signs (e.g., fell while climbing in areas roped off for safety reasons). If search and rescue services are required in these types of situations, the person(s) requiring rescue may be charged for the services so that the community does not have to pay the cost of the search and rescue.


Liability Issues

Promoters may be required to post a bond or provide liability insurance to cover the costs of emergency response, subsequent venue cleanup, traffic and crowd control, and other policing functions.

The head of the planning team must monitor progress made in satisfying all legal and liability requirements throughout the planning stage of the event.

In addition, research should be done to determine the statutory authority and emergency powers (e.g., emergency evacuation) of the various parties involved in the event.


Political Issues

Often, communities have to deal with local political considerations when they plan events. Promoters should be aware that political considerations are always important to the local community.

A way to encourage elected political officials to support an event is to show the monetary or quality-of-life impact that a safe and successful event would have on the community. Explaining the positive impact encourages elected political officials to support the event.


Economic Issues

Special events often bring attention and significant economic benefits to local communities. Benefits could include an influx of revenue into parts of the local community, such as the hotel and restaurant industries.

Local event planners must not sacrifice public safety for the sake of economic benefit. Certain businesses could be adversely affected by actions related to the event (e.g., closing streets in a commercial area, increased traffic in residential areas). Fire and police agencies must not be negatively impacted by an event. Additional staffing may be required to ensure that this does not happen.


Pre-Event Planning Resources

Prior to completing this lesson, you may want to review the following resources:


Lesson Summary

This lesson introduced the importance of planning and how planning relates to the success of an event, including:

  • When communities should begin planning for a special event.
  • The concept of involving a team of key personnel in the pre-event planning process.
  • The process for organizing the planning team meeting.
  • Common special issues related to pre-event planning.

The next lesson, Lesson 3 will introduce the importance of conducting a hazard analysis prior to an event.



Lesson 3: Risks and Hazards To Consider

Lesson Overview

This lesson will introduce:

  • The importance of identifying and analyzing possible hazards that could occur at an event.
  • The risks and vulnerabilities associated with each hazard.


Lesson Objectives

At the end of this lesson, you should be able to:

  • Identify the hazards that are most likely to affect special events.
  • Analyze the risks that common hazards pose.
  • Describe the importance of developing contingency plans to address identified hazards.


Hazard Analysis

Hazard analysis is the decisionmaking process used to identify and analyze the various hazards that could occur at an event. Hazard analysis is conducted routinely as part of the emergency planning process and is appropriate for special events planning. A hazard analysis should be conducted or reviewed prior to each special event.

Because of the potentially large numbers of participants and attendees, special events may:

  • Present a greater risk for incidents, and
  • Provide targets of opportunity for criminal and/or terrorist elements.


Conducting a Hazard Analysis

Conducting a hazard analysis involves four steps:

  • Identify the hazards.
  • Weigh and compare the risks.
  • Profile hazards and consequences.
  • Determine vulnerabilities.


Step 1: Identify the Hazards

The first step in the hazard analysis process is to identify hazards facing the jurisdiction. There are several sources of information that you can turn to as you identify hazards. These sources include:

  • The jurisdiction’s existing hazard analysis.
  • Historical data, especially as they relate to similar hazards.
  • Statistical data (from government agencies) about the hazards that are most likely to occur in your area.
  • Specific and unique hazards to the event.

By reviewing these sources of information, you should be able to identify the natural, technological, and manmade hazards that could affect your area.


Types of Hazards

When identifying hazards make sure to include:

  • Natural Hazards: Disasters, such as fires, tornadoes, floods, ice storms, earthquakes, foodborne illnesses, or epidemics.
  • Technological Hazards: Radiological or hazmat releases, or power failures.
  • Human-Caused Hazards: Criminal or terrorist acts or other related threats.


Step 2: Weigh and Compare the Risks

You will find that some hazards pose a greater threat to your jurisdiction than others. To determine which pose the greatest threat, weigh and compare the risks posed by each hazard. Consider the:

Frequency of occurrence
  • How often does this hazard occur?
Magnitude and potential intensity
  • How bad could this hazard get?
  • Are some areas of the jurisdiction more likely to be affected by this hazard than others?
Probable spatial extent
  • How much of the jurisdiction is likely to be affected?
Probable duration
  • How long is the hazard likely to pose a threat?
Seasonal pattern
  • Is the hazard more likely to occur during certain months of the year?
Speed of onset and availability of warning
  • How fast would an incident involving this hazard threaten lives and property?
  • If the hazard does not threaten lives and property, what degree of disruption could it cause?
  • Is there a way to warn against this hazard?


Step 3: Profile Hazards and Consequences

Your next step should involve developing a hazard profile that assigns numeric values to each hazard so that you have an idea about the real risks each hazard poses. The numeric values relate to:

  • How often each hazard could occur (frequency distribution).
  • The potential impact that the hazard could have on the population and property.
  • The level of coverage in the Emergency Operations Plan (EOP).

When taken in combination, these factors create a profile that will help you prioritize each hazard.

Frequency Distributions

Assign a frequency distribution for each type of hazard identified in the Rating Worksheet. A frequency distribution categorizes the jurisdiction’s exposure to each hazard (i.e., the likelihood of occurrence for each type of hazard). Exposure can be assessed in terms of cycles, hours, or years. The definitions of frequency distribution are shown in the table below.

Exposure Frequency
Highly likely = 3 The potential for impact is very probable (near 100 percent) in the next year.
Likely = 2 The potential for impact is between 10 and 100 percent within the next year.
There is at least one chance of occurrence within the next 10 years.
Possible = 1 The potential for impact is between 1 and 10 percent within the next year.
There is at least one chance of occurrence within the next 100 years.
Unlikely = 0 The potential for impact is less than 1 percent in the next 100 years.


Severity Ratings

Use historical and analytical data to assign a severity rating to each type of hazard that the team identifies in the Hazard Rating Worksheet. The severity ratings selected should quantify, to the degree possible, the damage to be expected in the jurisdiction as a result of a specific hazard. The definitions of the severity ratings are shown in the table below.

Population/Property Level of Severity Definition
Catastrophic = 3
  • Multiple deaths
  • Complete shutdown of critical facilities for 30 days or more
  • More than 50 percent of property is severely damaged
Critical = 2
  • Injuries and/or illnesses result in permanent disability
  • Complete shutdown of critical facilities for at least 2 weeks
  • More than 25 percent of property is severely damaged
Limited = 1
  • Injuries and/or illnesses do not result in permanent disability
  • Complete shutdown of critical facilities for more than 1 week
  • More than 10 percent of property is severely damaged
Negligible = 0
  • Injuries and/or illnesses are treatable with first aid
  • Minor quality of life lost
  • Shutdown of critical facilities and services for 24 hours or less
  • No more than 1 percent of property is severely damaged


Hazard Profile Worksheet

Instructions: Using the severity and frequency distribution definitions, the planning team should identify potential hazards for the event and rank them in the Rating Worksheet.

Hazard Frequency (Likelihood) Potential Impact on Population Potential Impact on Property Level of Coverage in EOP Point Total
0 = Unlikely
1 = Possible
2 = Likely
3 = Highly Likely
0 = Negligible
1 = Limited
2 = Critical
3 = Catastrophic
0 = Negligible
1 = Limited
2 = Critical
3 = Catastrophic
0 = None
1 = Limited
2 = Sufficient
3 = Comprehensive (annex)
0 1 2 3 0 1 2 3 0 1 2 3 0 1 2 3
0 1 2 3 0 1 2 3 0 1 2 3 0 1 2 3
0 1 2 3 0 1 2 3 0 1 2 3 0 1 2 3
0 1 2 3 0 1 2 3 0 1 2 3 0 1 2 3
0 1 2 3 0 1 2 3 0 1 2 3 0 1 2 3
0 1 2 3 0 1 2 3 0 1 2 3 0 1 2 3
0 1 2 3 0 1 2 3 0 1 2 3 0 1 2 3
0 1 2 3 0 1 2 3 0 1 2 3 0 1 2 3
0 1 2 3 0 1 2 3 0 1 2 3 0 1 2 3
0 1 2 3 0 1 2 3 0 1 2 3 0 1 2 3
0 1 2 3 0 1 2 3 0 1 2 3 0 1 2 3
0 1 2 3 0 1 2 3 0 1 2 3 0 1 2 3


Hazard Prioritization Job Aid

Use the information from the Hazard Ranking Worksheet to complete this job aid for each hazard.

Potential Magnitude:

  • Catastrophic: Can affect more than 50 percent of the jurisdiction.
  • Critical: Can affect between 25 and 50 percent of the jurisdiction.
  • Limited: Can affect between 10 and 25 percent of the jurisdiction.
  • Negligible: Can affect less than 10 percent of the jurisdiction.
Areas Likely To Be Most Affected:
Probable Duration:
Potential Speed of Onset:

  • More than 24 hours warning probably will be available.
  • Between 12 and 24 hours warning probably will be available.
  • Between 6 and 12 hours warning will be available.
  • Minimal (or no) warning will be available.
Existing Warning Systems:    
Complete Vulnerability Analysis with local/State emergency management agencies? (Note that some hazards may pose such a limited threat to the jurisdiction that additional analysis is not necessary.) Yes/No


Step 4: Determine Vulnerabilities

The fourth step involves determining how vulnerable your jurisdiction is to the highest ranked hazards. Some questions to ask when determining vulnerabilities include:

  • What level of coverage is this hazard given in your Emergency Operations Plan (EOP)?
  • Are critical facilities (e.g., fire and police stations) likely to be affected?
  • Are local personnel trained and equipped to respond safely?
  • Could response personnel be delayed by traffic, debris, or other factors? For how long?

Answering these types of questions will tell you if—and to what degree—your jurisdiction is vulnerable.


Developing Contingency Plans

Unfortunately, not every event runs as planned. Often, incidents occur that are beyond the control of the planning team.

You should develop contingency plans for every high-risk, high-impact incident. When developing contingency plans, be sure to consult with all parties who may respond to an emergency situation.


Lesson Summary

This lesson has covered the steps in the hazard analysis process:

  • Identify the hazards.
  • Weigh and compare the risks.
  • Profile hazards and consequences.
  • Determine vulnerabilities.

By completing a hazard analysis prior to each event, you will know which hazards are both high-risk and high-impact for your jurisdiction. You should plan to address these hazards. The next lesson will cover the special operational considerations for special events.

Click on this link to access the Hazard Vulnerability Assessment Worksheet presented in this lesson.



Lesson 4: Special Operational Considerations

Lesson Overview

This lesson will outline the importance of identifying and addressing the critical operational considerations that are associated with a special event.


Lesson Objectives

At the end of this lesson, you should be able to:

  • Identify critical operational considerations when special events involve crowds.
  • Identify critical operational considerations regarding the venue(s) for special events.
  • Identify critical operational considerations to ensure safety and protect public health during special events.
  • Identify critical security considerations involved in special events.
  • Identify critical traffic and transportation considerations involved in special events.


What Are Operational Considerations?

Not every event runs as planned. Some incidents occur that are beyond the control of the planning team. To ensure that all preparations possible have been made to ensure spectator safety, the planning team must also identify operational considerations—hazards or incidents that could occur during an event.

Identifying operational considerations allows the planning team to consider even low-risk but high-impact scenarios and develop contingency plans to deal with them.

Key operational considerations to address will be described on the next screens.


Spectator Management and Crowd-Control Issues

Crowds are complex social structures in which people can assume roles that are quite different from how they behave in other settings. Some roles that event participants may assume include:

  • Observers: Those who follow the actions of the crowd but rarely take part.
  • Cheerleaders: Those who provide verbal support for crowd leaders.
  • Active Core: Those who carry out the actions of the crowd.


Why Are Crowd “Personalities” Significant?

Crowd “personalities” are significant at special events because they can:

  • Increase the probability of a dangerous occurrence.
  • Increase the potential number of victims.
  • Make communication slower and more difficult.
  • Make response slower and more difficult.
  • Diffuse responsibility (someone else will do it).

Panics, Crazes, Deindividualization, and Defusing

Panics and Crazes   Panic in a group is the flight from a real or perceived threat in which escape appears to be the only effective response. What appears to be panic is usually the result of poor inputs (especially communications or the lack there of) and previous knowledge and experience. Craze in a group is the temporary, short-lived competitive rush by a group toward some attractive object. A craze tends to occur upon entering a venue and is exacerbated by the lack of information.
Deindividualization   Deindividualization is defined as a loss of self-awareness and evaluation apprehension in group situations that foster anonymity. Behavior may include a(n):

  • Mild lessening of restraint (e.g., screaming during a concert).
  • Impulsive self-gratification (e.g., theft, vandalism, molestation).
  • Destructive social explosion (e.g., group violence, rioting, torturing).
Defusing   Problems can arise from the tedium created by:

  • Waiting.
  • The perception that other gates are being opened first.
  • The perception that later arrivals are being admitted first.

Such things as appropriate music, use of humor, food and beverage services moving through the group, cheerful security staff moving through the group, and good communication, including a public address system, can help defuse the situation.

Crowd Catalysts

Catalyst Example
Operational Parking, no-show performers, cancellations
Event Activities Smoke, fire, lasers, noise
Performer(s) Actions Sexual/violent gestures, challenges/song lyrics
Spectator Factors Drugs, alcohol, rush for seats
Security Factors Excessive or unreasonable force, abuse of authority
Social Factors Racial tensions, age, political differences, team rivalries
Weather Heat, humidity, rain, lack of ventilation
Natural Disaster Earthquake, deluge, flash flood
Manmade Disaster Structural failure, toxic substance

Crowd Throughput Capacities

In his writings on crowd disasters, Fruin (1981) identifies several areas to consider when addressing spectator throughput in entry to a performance. Fruin’s suggestions on throughput capacities are shown below. Note that security issues of today can reduce throughput considerably.

Area Suggestion
Ticket Collectors Ticket collectors should be in a staff uniform or otherwise identifiable. Ticket collectors faced with a constant line can throughput a maximum of:

  • One patron per second per portal in a simple pass-through situation.
  • Two seconds per patron if the ticket must be torn and stub handed to patron.

More complicated ticketing procedures (and/or answering the occasional question) will add processing time.

Doorways Free-swinging door, open portal, or gate can accommodate up to one person per second with a constant queue. Revolving doors and turnstiles would be half this rate of throughput, or less.
Corridors, Walkways, and Ramps In dense crowds, corridors, walkways, and ramps have a maximum pedestrian traffic capacity of approximately 25 persons per minute per 1 foot of clear width.
Stairs Stairs have a maximum practical traffic capacity of approximately 16 persons per minute in the upward direction. Narrow stairs (less than 5 feet) will lower the maximum flow.
Escalators and Moving Walkways A standard 3.94-foot-wide escalator or moving walkway, operating at 118 feet per minute, can carry 100 persons per minute under a constant queue.


Event Cancellation or Postponement

From time to time, an event may need to be canceled, postponed, or interrupted. If a crowd has already gathered, these actions have the potential to create dangerous crowd reactions.

Be sure to have plans in place to manage an angry crowd appropriately and to address the possible readmission of patrons to the venue.


Authority To Cancel or Postpone

One major area to consider is who has the authority to cancel or postpone an event. During the planning process, the promoter and the planning team must discuss:

  • Who has the authority to cancel or postpone an event.
  • When and under what conditions the event can be postponed or canceled.

These decisions must be made before the event begins, and everyone must know who has what authority. The Incident Command System (ICS) helps ensure chain of command, communications, and proper approving authority.


Determining the Venue (Site)

You may need to consider a number of alternative venues for an event. Emergency managers may be able to recommend appropriate venues based on health and safety considerations.

Finding a suitable venue or set of venues can be difficult. Using a systematic approach to determine the venue will help in the selection process.

Click on this link to review a checklist for determining venues.


Safety Issues

Spectator safety is a paramount issue during any special event. Safety issues may include consideration of:

  • Structures (e.g., stages and platforms, temporary structures, and load capacities).
  • Audience safety (e.g., seating, public health, medical care).
  • Fire safety.
  • Security.


Structural Safety

One area of great concern is the physical setup of the event. The planning team must consider:

  • The performance facilities that are needed.
  • The special structures that are needed for indoor or outdoor events.
  • Whether temporary structures can be used.

Remember that all structures, both temporary and permanent, must comply with local building codes.


Stages and Platforms

The type of event and its site affect the types of performance equipment to be used and, thus, the requirements for stages or platforms. Qualified inspectors should inspect stages and/or platforms to ensure that the stage is appropriate for the event.

Expected crowd behavior is a main factor in determining stage configuration. For example, classical music performances usually attract a mature, orderly audience. Teenage fans at a rock concert have been known, however, to storm the stage to touch their idols. Event planners should understand the characteristics of the audience that each event will attract.

Gathering Crowd Information

There are three main ways to gather information about a potential audience at an event:

  • Review press reports and contact local public safety officials who were present at previous performances.
  • Speak with spectators who have attended similar entertainment events such as rock concerts.
  • Check with the promoter to determine audience behavior at past events and the type of crowd and behavior that can be expected.



Stages are usually elevated to provide a better view of the performance. Elevation itself is a barrier to those who would rush the stage. Also, increased height can create an open area at the base of the stage so that line of sight is not impeded by the stage itself.

A stage alone is usually insufficient to deter determined spectators. Planners should provide for a physical barrier at the front of the stage.

All stages must conform to building codes.

Suggested Stage Barriers

Indoor Events During indoor events, erect a V-shaped barrier in front of the stage. This barrier will deflect patrons away from the stage area if any surge comes from behind. The V shape also provides an additional barrier to prevent spectators from reaching the stage. Security staff can position themselves in this spectator-free zone or should be able to gain access to it quickly from either end of the stage. Using this setup, barrier posts must be anchored securely to the floor. They should also have some padded protection.
Outdoor Events Board fences similar to the V-shaped barrier used for indoor concerts can be used outdoors. Board fences have the added benefit of providing a walkway on the spectator side as well as behind it. Because most outdoor concerts do not provide seating, spectators in the front rows need to position themselves several yards back from the fence to see the stage over the fence. This area permits emergency access to the front rows of spectators.

Any barrier, whether indoor or outdoor, should be engineered to provide some “give” upon impact to protect against crush injuries. They must also be solid enough so that they will not collapse and cause injuries.


Breakaway Stage Skirts

The front skirt around the base of a stage should be constructed to break away under the pressure of crowd surge. This feature is not practical, though, when there is less than six feet of clearance beneath the stage because of the potential for head injuries if a spectator collides with the leading edge of the stage.

A breakaway stage skirt does not remove the requirement for a barrier.


Temporary Structures

Many events require easily constructed temporary structures. Examples of temporary structures include:

  • The stage platform.
  • Towers to house speakers and lighting.
  • Temporary seating.
  • Dance and viewing platforms.
  • Roofs, towers, and masts.
  • Marquees and large tents.
  • Decorative items, such as archways, signs, and sideshows.

A building codes inspector should supervise the erection of temporary structures and ensure that they conform to building and engineering specifications.


Load Capacities

All structures have load capacities. The planning team must take precautions to prevent overloading of any structure. These precautions apply to all viewing platforms, including walkways or balconies.

The bases of temporary structures must be protected from damage by vehicular traffic through the use of designated buffer zones.



Ideally, all seating should be reserved. Reserved seating may be difficult, however, at outdoor events.

If most spectators are expected to be teenagers, seating should be set up to control surges and crushing at the front of the stage. Planners should provide security to ensure that the audience does not stand on seats.

Seating should be anchored to prevent movement.


Temporary Seating

Seating in community centers, arenas, or similar indoor locations often combines fixed perimeter seating with additional folding or stacking seating on the central floor.

Temporary seats should be secured, either to the floor or to one another. Where this is not possible, the legs of each row of chairs should be fastened to two long planks, one running under the front legs and one running under the back.

Outdoor seating as well as grass and turf in the seating area may become slippery in damp weather. Caution should be taken if an event is scheduled early in the morning or if the weather could become inclement.

Click this link to review a Building Department Venue Assessment Checklist.


Public Health Considerations

Mass gatherings present special challenges for preventing harm to participants, spectators, and event staff. Familiarity with the financial stakeholders and knowledge of potential and actual public health issues present a common challenge.

Key steps to take to prevent—or at least minimize—public health issues will be covered on the next screens.


Monitoring Health Risks

First aid posts and security personnel can provide information to help assess health and safety risks. First aid posts can provide data on gastrointestinal illnesses. First aid posts can also maintain records of injuries, incidents involving watercourses, and alcohol and drug issues. Security agencies can provide information on safety hazards and alcohol and drug issues.

Click on this link to review a Gastrointestinal Illness Questionnaire.


Food Safety

Food safety is critical to public health planning. Food-handling personnel must follow proper sanitary practices for storage, preparation, and distribution or food may become contaminated.

To ensure that safety standards are met and maintained, a health officer should assess food service proposals during the planning stage. The officer should follow this assessment with a pre-event audit and periodic monitoring of food safety throughout the event.

Safe Food Handling Checklist

Avoiding Cross-Contamination
  • Utensils and surfaces that are used for preparing raw or ready-to-eat food should be clearly distinguished.
  • All personnel should wear disposable gloves and change them regularly.
  • Frequent hand washing should be encouraged.
  • Raw foods should be stored separately or stored below cooked ready-to-eat foods.
  • Equipment must be cleaned and sanitized after each separate process.
Thawing, Cooking, Heating, and Cooling
  • Minimize the length of time that foods are held between 41o and 140oF. (This is the temperature range in which most food-borne microorganisms can grow.)
  • Thaw food under refrigeration or in cold, running water.
  • Cook food thoroughly to applicable standards.
  • When reheating is required, heat the food thoroughly and store it appropriately.
  • Cool food quickly under refrigeration.
  • Apportion food into appropriately sized trays.
Cleaning and Sanitizing
  • Require regular cleaning and sanitizing of all food contact surfaces.
  • Require cleaning of all other surfaces to minimize the risk of contamination of food products.
  • Be alert for signs of pest infestation.
  • Consider providing a designated washup area for food outlets to reduce sullage waste storage.
Chemical Storage
  • Store chemicals in separate areas from food.
  • Clearly mark the contents of chemical storage containers.
  • Never use food containers to store chemicals.
Food Storage
  • Require storage areas of adequate size for the purpose.
  • Require all foodstuffs to be stored off the floor or ground.
  • Ensure that refrigerated or heated storage areas have a continuous power supply. Alternate means of refrigeration should be planned in case of refrigeration failure.


Food Vendor Licensing

Food vendors should be required to meet State, tribal, and local licensing and registration requirements. During an event, onsite health officers must have the authority to close down any vendor who is not complying with public health requirements.

Click on this link to review a Food Vendor Information Sheet.
Click on this link to review a Catering Inspection Checklist for Food Vendors.


Other Food Safety Measures

The planning team should assess other food safety measures, including:

  • The setup and construction of food premises—areas to be used for food storage, preparation, and service.
  • Equipment used in food preparation, distribution, and storage.

Inspectors should verify that an appropriate number of the correct kind and type of fire extinguishers is available at vendor sites and that the vendors are in compliance with all local, tribal, and State codes.


Personal Safety

The safety of staff and the public is an important consideration. Inspectors must be aware of occupational health and safety standards, including those related to:

  • Loose power leads.
  • Trip hazards.
  • Inadequate refuse disposal.
  • Inappropriate positioning of equipment.
  • Poor ventilation and extreme temperatures in the work environment.
  • Poorly stacked supplies.
  • Unguarded equipment.


Providing Lost-Child and “Meet Me” Locations

Depending on the size of the event and the number of spectators, children may become separated from their adult supervisors. Planners should designate a place for lost children to be reunited with their adult companions and develop a way to allow information to be disseminated quickly and accurately.

One useful way of handling lost children is to provide “meet me” locations. These are well-marked, designated locations throughout the site. Patrons can plan to meet at these locations if they become separated.


Fire Safety

All States and territories have legislation governing fire safety. The local fire authority should monitor fire prevention and preparedness plans to ensure that measures taken comply with local fire safety codes. Other steps that should be taken to ensure safety from fires include:

  • Onsite inspections before the event to note and correct deficiencies.
  • Meetings with organizers to consider and resolve potential fire hazards.
  • Designing the site to mitigate fire hazards (for example, clear storage areas, no open flames, control of pyrotechnics, etc.).

Click on this link to view a Fire Services Venue Assessment Checklist.


Security Concerns

Security at special events has become more important in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

Event organizers must decide what type of security to provide and the scope of the security services’ jurisdiction. Providing security services is vital to public safety. There are three types of security that should be considered for large public events:

  • Peer security.
  • Private uniformed security guards.
  • Uniformed police officers.


Peer Security

Peer security—security personnel of the approximate age of the spectators—has shown to be useful with young audiences. Peer security personnel usually wear brightly colored t-shirts that are plainly marked “SECURITY.” Peer security personnel provide a less confrontational security presence by avoiding the posture of rigid authority and force.

Peer security personnel do not carry weapons or try to fulfill a police function. They function as monitors, people movers, and troubleshooters.


Private Uniformed Security Guards

Private uniformed security guards are well suited to events such as religious rallies, charitable dinners, and art shows. At events attracting more youthful crowds, uniformed security guards are better used in nonconfrontational roles, such as taking and parking cars.

Event planners should ensure that the personnel are recruited from reputable sources with appropriately trained personnel. Planners should discuss special requirements for the event with the security firm.


Uniformed Police Officers

At some events, such as those that attract crowds who historically have experienced violence as part of the event “culture,” nothing short of a uniformed police officer can dissuade the potentially violent attendees.

At other events, such as rock concerts, groups typically enter in a peaceful frame of mind but may be induced to rowdiness by alcohol or other catalysts.

The composition of security services will vary according to the event. One type of security, or a combination of the three types, may best serve specific events or venues.


Security Roles and Responsibilities

Regardless of the security implemented, planners should establish roles and responsibilities for security personnel prior to the event. Decisions and actions taken by security personnel may affect the way emergency services and health personnel respond to an emergency.

Click on this link to review a worksheet covering security roles and responsibilities.


Pre-Event Briefing of Security Personnel

To enable security personnel to perform effectively, they should be briefed prior to the event. The pre-event briefing should cover:

  • Details of the venue, including entrances, exits, medical aid locations, and potential hazards.
  • Clear direction on unacceptable behavior.
  • Basic information about the event.
  • Details of emergency and evacuation plans.
  • Instructions for operation, deactivation, and isolation of onsite emergency equipment.
  • Details of the incident communications plan.


Traffic and Transportation Issues

Transportation presents one of the first impressions attendees have about an event’s organization. Sitting in a line of cars for hours on the highway will undoubtedly create a negative impression. Planners should ensure that the community—and surrounding communities—are aware of the potential impact that an event will have on traffic.

Planners should assign a traffic management group to plan for traffic well in advance of the event. The group should use the local media to inform residents of the impact that an event will have on their mobility.

Click on this link to access Federal Highway Administration’s Web resources on Planned Special Events Traffic Management. This site includes links to the Managing Travel for Planned Special Events Handbook and a related tabletop exercise.


Emergency Access

Traffic planners must also consider possible emergency needs at an event. Planning should include emergency ingress and egress routes as well as:

  • Emergency routes from the event site to the nearest hospital.
  • Possible landing sites for helicopters.



When organizers anticipate that event traffic will have a major impact on traffic flow, planners should consider requiring the promoter to hire a professional traffic planner. This planner will work with local personnel to create alternative routes or special signage for the event.

Strategically placed variable-message signs are very useful devices to inform the motoring public. Temporary fixed signage can also be used as long as the signs are easily understood by the public.


Use of the Media

Using local radio stations or a specially designated frequency to broadcast travel information and instructions on the day of the event can help to lower motorist frustration.

Broadcasting is also a good way for event staff to provide patrons with guidance and safety messages prior to their arrival. Finally, consider establishing a Web site to post updates or social media technology to communicate text messages.


Traffic Monitoring

Traffic monitoring should be carried out by periodic radio contact with ground personnel and by surveillance from aerial observation platforms. Other ways to monitor traffic include:

  • Fixed-wing aircraft.
  • Helicopters.
  • Stationary, closed-circuit TV cameras.


Public Transportation

When available, public transportation should be encouraged to lessen the impact on street traffic. The use of public transportation also decreases the number of parking attendants required at the event site.

Another possibility for large-scale events is event-only transportation. By using event-only transportation, promoters can provide transportation from off-venue sites and remote event-specific parking areas.


Other Transportation-Related Issues

Other transportation-related issues that should be considered by event planners include:

  • The towing policy for disabled vehicles.
  • Vehicle prescreening for vendors and event vehicles.
  • Parking and parking control.
  • Auxiliary parking lots and shuttles.
  • Accessibility for persons with disabilities.

Event planners should work closely with the promoter and public safety personnel to ensure that all transportation-related concerns are identified and addressed.


Other Special Operational Considerations

There may be special risks associated with high-profile or controversial events. These considerations may be associated with:

  • Special security events, for example, Presidential visits.
  • Bowl games or conventions.
  • National Special Security Events (NSSEs), such as the Super Bowl or national political conventions.
  • High-profile events that present a risk of terrorist attack.

Planners must identify whether planned events fit any of these categories. If so, special planning will be required including, perhaps, assistance from State, tribal, and/or Federal agencies.


Special Operational Considerations Resources

Prior to completing this lesson, you may want to review the following resources:

Also, you may want to visit the Federal Highway Administration’s Planned Special Events Preparedness Web site. (


Lesson Summary

This lesson has covered some of the critical operational considerations for special events, including:

  • Crowd considerations.
  • Venue considerations.
  • Safety considerations.
  • Public health considerations.
  • Security considerations.
  • Traffic and transportation considerations.

The next lesson will cover using the Incident Command System (ICS) as an on-scene management system for special events.



Lesson 5: Using ICS To Manage Special Events

Lesson Overview

This lesson will introduce the Incident Command System (ICS) as an efficient way of managing special events. This lesson will discuss the ICS organizational structure, ICS positions, incident action planning, and command structures.


Lesson Objectives

At the end of this lesson, you should be able to:

  • Define Incident Command System (ICS).
  • Identify the five functional areas of ICS and identify which area is active at every special event and which areas are included only when needed.
  • List four duties of an Incident Commander.
  • Define Unified Command and give two examples of occasions when it should be used.


Homeland Security Presidential Directives

The following Presidential Directives are linked to national preparedness:

  • HSPD-5 identified steps for improved coordination in response to incidents. It requires the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to coordinate with other Federal departments and agencies and State, local, and tribal governments to establish a National Response Framework (NRF) and a National Incident Management System (NIMS).
  • PPD-8, National Preparedness, describes the Nation’s approach to preparedness-one that involves the whole community, including individuals, businesses, community- and faith-based organizations, schools, tribes, and all levels of government (Federal, State, local, tribal and territorial).



NIMS provides a systematic, proactive approach to guide departments and agencies at all levels of government, nongovernmental organizations, and the private sector to work seamlessly to prevent, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate the effects of incidents, regardless of cause, size, location, or complexity, in order to reduce the loss of life and property and harm to the environment.

The NRF is a guide to how the Nation conducts all-hazards response – from the smallest incident to the largest catastrophe. This key document establishes a comprehensive, national, all-hazards approach to domestic incident response. The Framework identifies the key response principles, roles, and structures that organize national response. It describes how communities, States, the Federal Government, and private-sector and nongovernmental partners apply these principles for a coordinated, effective national response.


NIMS Components

NIMS is much more than just using the Incident Command System or an organization chart.

NIMS is a consistent, nationwide, systematic approach that includes the following components:

  • Preparedness
    Effective emergency management and incident response activities begin with a host of preparedness activities conducted on an ongoing basis, in advance of any potential incident. Preparedness involves an integrated combination of assessment; planning; procedures and protocols; training and exercises; personnel qualifications, licensure, and certification; equipment certification; and evaluation and revision.
  • Communications and Information Management
    Emergency management and incident response activities rely on communications and information systems that provide a common operating picture to all command and coordination sites. NIMS describes the requirements necessary for a standardized framework for communications and emphasizes the need for a common operating picture. This component is based on the concepts of interoperability, reliability, scalability, and portability, as well as the resiliency and redundancy of communications and information systems.
  • Resource Management
    Resources (such as personnel, equipment, or supplies) are needed to support critical incident objectives. The flow of resources must be fluid and adaptable to the requirements of the incident. NIMS defines standardized mechanisms and establishes the resource management process to identify requirements, order and acquire, mobilize, track and report, recover and demobilize, reimburse, and inventory resources.
  • Command and Management
    The Command and Management component of NIMS is designed to enable effective and efficient incident management and coordination by providing a flexible, standardized incident management structure. The structure is based on three key organizational constructs: the Incident Command System, Multiagency Coordination Systems, and Public Information.
  • Ongoing Management and Maintenance
    Within the auspices of Ongoing Management and Maintenance, there are two components: the National Integration Center (NIC) and Supporting Technologies.

The components of NIMS were not designed to stand alone, but to work together.


Command and Management Elements

The NIMS Command and Management component facilitates incident management. This component includes the following elements: Incident Command System, Multiagency Coordination Systems, and Public Information.

The Command and Management Elements (Incident Command System, Multiagency Coordination Systems, and Public information) build upon the Preparedness, Communications & Information Management, and Resource Management Components.

What Is ICS?

Within the Command and Management component, the Incident Command System (ICS) provides a standardized approach to managing incidents and special events. ICS:

  • Is based on proven incident management practices.
  • Defines incident response organizational concepts and structures.
  • Consists of procedures for managing personnel, facilities, equipment, and communications.
  • Is used throughout the lifecycle of an incident (e.g., from pre-incident planning to demobilization of resources).

It is highly recommended that you complete IS-100, Introduction to the Incident Command System.


ICS and Special Event Planning

As you learned in Lesson 2, planning for a special event should begin well in advance and include all stakeholders. With many agencies participating in an event, it is important to use a proven management system. Using ICS is an excellent means of determining how resources are going to be used, who will coordinate them, and how information will be communicated during a special event. ICS is designed to assist event planners in the areas of:

  • Resource management.
  • Organization.
  • Delegation of authority.
  • Coordination.
  • Communication.
  • Evaluation.

Click on the links below to review examples of the use of ICS in special events contingency planning.


Advantages of ICS

Using ICS to plan and manage a special event:

  • Allows the organization to adapt and expand if unanticipated situations occur during the event.
  • Provides an opportunity to test protocols and procedures that could be used in a no-notice incident or emergency.
  • Facilitates the decisionmaking and coordination among all stakeholders involved in the event.
  • Often avoids duplication of efforts and reduces the cost of an event through better management of resources.


Optimizing Communication and Coordination

Using ICS optimizes communication and coordination, and facilitates the protection of life and property.

ICS achieves these objectives by:

  • Establishing a standardized command structure for any event or incident.
  • Using common terminology that ensures everyone will understand what is being said and how to acknowledge it properly.


ICS Features: Review

ICS includes 14 important features. The first seven of these features are listed below:

Common Terminology

ICS establishes common terminology that allows diverse incident management and support organizations to work together across a wide variety of incident management functions and hazard scenarios. This common terminology covers the following:

  • Organizational Functions: Major functions and functional units with incident management responsibilities are named and defined. Terminology for the organizational elements is standard and consistent.
  • Resource Descriptions: Major resources—including personnel, facilities, and major equipment and supply items—that support incident management activities are given common names and are “typed” with respect to their capabilities, to help avoid confusion and to enhance interoperability.
  • Incident Facilities: Common terminology is used to designate the facilities in the vicinity of the incident area that will be used during the course of the incident.

Incident response communications (during exercises and actual incidents) should feature plain language commands so they will be able to function in a multijurisdictional environment. Field manuals and training should be revised to reflect the plain language standard.

Modular Organization

The ICS organizational structure develops in a modular fashion based on the size and complexity of the incident, as well as the specifics of the hazard environment created by the incident. When needed, separate functional elements can be established, each of which may be further subdivided to enhance internal organizational management and external coordination. Responsibility for the establishment and expansion of the ICS modular organization ultimately rests with Incident Command, which bases the ICS organization on the requirements of the situation. As incident complexity increases, the organization expands from the top down as functional responsibilities are delegated. Concurrently with structural expansion, the number of management and supervisory positions expands to address the requirements of the incident adequately.

Management by Objectives

Management by objectives is communicated throughout the entire ICS organization and includes:

  • Establishing overarching incident objectives.
  • Developing strategies based on overarching incident objectives.
  • Developing and issuing assignments, plans, procedures, and protocols.
  • Establishing specific, measurable tactics or tasks for various incident management functional activities, and directing efforts to accomplish them, in support of defined strategies.
  • Documenting results to measure performance and facilitate corrective actions.

Incident Action Planning

Centralized, coordinated incident action planning should guide all response activities. An Incident Action Plan (IAP) provides a concise, coherent means of capturing and communicating the overall incident priorities, objectives, and strategies in the contexts of both operational and support activities. Every incident must have an action plan. However, not all incidents require written plans. The need for written plans and attachments is based on the requirements of the incident and the decision of the Incident Commander or Unified Command. Most initial response operations are not captured with a formal IAP. However, if an incident is likely to extend beyond one operational period, become more complex, or involve multiple jurisdictions and/or agencies, preparing a written IAP will become increasingly important to maintain effective, efficient, and safe operations.

Manageable Span of Control

Span of control is key to effective and efficient incident management. Supervisors must be able to adequately supervise and control their subordinates, as well as communicate with and manage all resources under their supervision. In ICS, the span of control of any individual with incident management supervisory responsibility should range from 3 to 7 subordinates, with 5 being optimal. During a large-scale law enforcement operation, 8 to 10 subordinates may be optimal. The type of incident, nature of the task, hazards and safety factors, and distances between personnel and resources all influence span-of-control considerations.

Incident Facilities and Locations

Various types of operational support facilities are established in the vicinity of an incident, depending on its size and complexity, to accomplish a variety of purposes. The Incident Command will direct the identification and location of facilities based on the requirements of the situation. Typical designated facilities include Incident Command Posts, Bases, Camps, Staging Areas, mass casualty triage areas, point-of-distribution sites, and others as required.

Comprehensive Resource Management

Maintaining an accurate and up-to-date picture of resource utilization is a critical component of incident management and emergency response. Resources to be identified in this way include personnel, teams, equipment, supplies, and facilities available or potentially available for assignment or allocation.

Integrated Communications

Incident communications are facilitated through the development and use of a common communications plan and interoperable communications processes and architectures. The ICS 205 form is available to assist in developing a common communications plan. This integrated approach links the operational and support units of the various agencies involved and is necessary to maintain communications connectivity and discipline and to enable common situational awareness and interaction. Preparedness planning should address the equipment, systems, and protocols necessary to achieve integrated voice and data communications.

Establishment and Transfer of Command

The command function must be clearly established from the beginning of incident operations. The agency with primary jurisdictional authority over the incident designates the individual at the scene responsible for establishing command. When command is transferred, the process must include a briefing that captures all essential information for continuing safe and effective operations.

Chain of Command and Unity of Command

  • Chain of Command: Chain of command refers to the orderly line of authority within the ranks of the incident management organization.
  • Unity of Command: Unity of command means that all individuals have a designated supervisor to whom they report at the scene of the incident.

These principles clarify reporting relationships and eliminate the confusion caused by multiple, conflicting directives. Incident managers at all levels must be able to direct the actions of all personnel under their supervision.

Unified Command

In incidents involving multiple jurisdictions, a single jurisdiction with multiagency involvement, or multiple jurisdictions with multiagency involvement, Unified Command allows agencies with different legal, geographic, and functional authorities and responsibilities to work together effectively without affecting individual agency authority, responsibility, or accountability.


Effective accountability of resources at all jurisdictional levels and within individual functional areas during incident operations is essential. Adherence to the following ICS principles and processes helps to ensure accountability:

  • Resource Check-In/Check-Out Procedures
  • Incident Action Planning
  • Unity of Command
  • Personal Responsibility
  • Span of Control
  • Resource Tracking


Resources should respond only when requested or when dispatched by an appropriate authority through established resource management systems. Resources not requested must refrain from spontaneous deployment to avoid overburdening the recipient and compounding accountability challenges.

Information and Intelligence Management

The incident management organization must establish a process for gathering, analyzing, assessing, sharing, and managing incident-related information and intelligence.


Five Major Management Functions

There are five major management functions that are the foundation upon which an incident management organization develops.

These functions apply to incidents of all sizes and types, including special events and emergencies that occur without warning.

Graphic showing the 5 major ICS management functions: Incident Command, Operations, Planning, Logistics, and Finance & Administration


Management Function Descriptions

Below is a brief description of the major incident management functions:

Incident Command Sets the incident objectives, strategies, and priorities and has overall responsibility for the incident.
Operations Conducts operations to reach the incident objectives. Establishes tactics and directs all operational resources.
Planning Supports the incident action planning process by tracking resources, collecting/analyzing information, and maintaining documentation.
Logistics Arranges for resources and needed services to support achievement of the incident objectives.
Finance & Administration Monitors costs related to the incident. Provides accounting, procurement, time recording, and cost analyses.



ICS Organization

In a special event, the Incident Commander may delegate any of the ICS functions by establishing Operations, Planning, Logistics, and Finance/Administration Sections.

Organization chart showing Incident Command with four sections reporting to it: Operations, Planning, Logistics, and Finance/Administration 

Remember . . . The Incident Commander only creates those Sections that are needed. If a Section is not staffed, the Incident Commander will personally manage those functions.


Incident Commander Responsibilities

The Incident Commander has overall responsibility for managing the entire incident. The Incident Command is responsible for:

  • Ensuring overall safety of the special event.
  • Providing information services to internal and external stakeholders, such as the public, government partners, industry representatives, and other leaders.
  • Establishing and maintaining liaison with other agencies participating in the incident.

The Incident Commander may appoint one or more Deputies. Deputy Incident Commanders must be as qualified as the Incident Commander


Expanding the Organization

As the complexity of a special event increases, the Incident Commander may delegate authority for performance of certain activities to the Command Staff and the General Staff. The Incident Commander will add positions only as needed.

Organization chart showing Incident Command, Command Staff (Public Information, Safety, and Liaison Officers), and General Staff (Operations, Planning, Logistics, and Finance/Administration Sections). More details available in longdesc tag.

Command Staff

Depending upon the size and type of special event, the Incident Commander may designate personnel to provide information, safety, and liaison services. In ICS, the following personnel comprise the Command Staff:

  • Public Information Officer, who serves as the conduit for information to internal and external stakeholders, including the media, stakeholders, and the public.
  • Safety Officer, who monitors safety conditions and develops measures for ensuring the safety of all event personnel.
  • Liaison Officer, who serves as the primary contact for other agencies assisting at a special event.

The Command Staff reports directly to the Incident Commander.

Section of organization chart showing Public Information, Safety, and Liaison Officers


Developing the Initial ICS Organization

The type, location, size, and expected duration of the event are key factors in developing the initial ICS organization. Answering the questions below will help event planners develop an organizational structure to meet the management needs of the event:

  • Does the event involve a single agency or multiple agencies?
  • Does the event involve a single jurisdiction or multiple jurisdictions?
  • What Command Staff needs exist?
  • What kinds, types, and amounts of resources are required by the event?
  • Are there any projected aviation operations?
  • Are there any Staging Areas or other required facilities?
  • What kind and type of logistical support needs are required by the event?
  • Are there any known limitations or restrictions of local resources?
  • What kind and type of communications resources are available?

Click on this link to access a worksheet of the above planning questions.

Initial ICS organization


Sample Organization for Special Event

Below is a sample organizational structure for a special event.

Org chart showing Incident Command at the top, with three Command Staff positions below (Liaison Officer, Public Information Officer, and Safety Officer), followed by three General Staff Sections and some subordinate entities: (1) Operations Section, with its Law Enforcement & Security Group, Public Health Group, Crowd Movement & Control Group, and Event Venue & Facilities Group; (2) Planning Section, with its Situation Unit; and (3) Logistics Section, with its Communications Unit

What Is a Multiagency Coordination System?

A Multiagency Coordination System is not simply a physical location or facility. Rather, the MAC System:

  • Defines business practices, standard operating procedures, and protocols by which participating agencies will coordinate their interactions.
  • Provides support, coordination, and assistance with policy-level decisions to the ICS structure managing an incident.

Cooperating agencies and organizations may develop a MAC System to better define how they will work together and to work together more efficiently.

Key NIMS Terminology: Coordinate – To advance an analysis and exchange of information systematically among principals who have or may have a need to know certain information to carry out specific incident management responsibilities.


“Big Picture Coordination”—Multiagency Coordination Systems

Multiagency Coordination Systems are a combination of resources that are integrated into a common framework for coordinating and supporting domestic incident management activities. These resources may include:

  • Facilities.
  • Equipment.
  • Personnel.
  • Procedures.
  • Communications.


Multiagency Coordination Systems Primary Functions

The primary functions of Multiagency Coordination Systems are to:

  • Support event or incident management policies and priorities.
  • Facilitate logistics support and resource tracking.
  • Make resource allocation decisions based on incident management priorities.
  • Coordinate incident-related information.
  • Coordinate interagency and intergovernmental issues regarding incident management policies, priorities, and strategies.
  • Direct tactical and operational responsibility for the conduct of incident management activities rests with the on-scene Incident Command.


MAC System Elements: Overview

Common coordination elements may include:

Dispatch Center: A Dispatch Center coordinates the acquisition, mobilization, and movement of resources as ordered by the Incident Command/Unified Command.

Emergency Operations Center (EOC): During an escalating incident, an EOC supports the on-scene response by relieving the burden of external coordination and securing additional resources. EOC core functions include coordination; communications; resource allocation and tracking; and information collection, analysis, and dissemination. EOCs may be staffed by personnel representing multiple jurisdictions and functional disciplines and a wide variety of resources.

Department Operations Center (DOC): A DOC coordinates an internal agency incident management and response. A DOC is linked to and, in most cases, physically represented in the EOC by authorized agent(s) for the department or agency.

Multiagency Coordination (MAC) Group: A MAC Group is comprised of administrators/executives, or their designees, who are authorized to represent or commit agency resources and funds. MAC Groups may also be known as multiagency committees or emergency management committees. A MAC Group does not have any direct incident involvement and will often be located some distance from the incident site(s) or may even function virtually. A MAC Group may require a support organization for its own logistics and documentation needs; to manage incident-related decision support information such as tracking critical resources, situation status, and intelligence or investigative information; and to provide public information to the news media and public. The number and skills of its personnel will vary by incident complexity, activity levels, needs of the MAC Group, and other factors identified through agreements or by preparedness organizations. A MAC Group may be established at any level (e.g., national, State, or local) or within any discipline (e.g., emergency management, public health, critical infrastructure, or private sector).


Emergency Operations Centers

Emergency Operations Centers (EOCs) represent the physical location where the coordination of information and resources for onsite event management takes place.

For complex events, EOCs may be staffed by personnel representing multiple jurisdictions and disciplines and a wide variety of resources. The size, staffing, and equipping of an EOC will depend on the size of the jurisdiction, resources available, and anticipated workload.


Public Information Principles

Systems and protocols for communicating timely and accurate information to the public are critical during large-scale special events or emergency situations.

Public information must be coordinated and integrated across:

  • Jurisdictions.
  • Functional agencies.
  • Federal, State, tribal, and local partners.
  • Private-sector and nongovernmental organizations.
  • The promoter or sponsor.

During special events or emergencies, the public may receive information from a variety of sources. The Public Information Officer (PIO) is responsible for establishing the systems and protocols required to meet the public’s need for information.


Public Information Systems

The PIO handles:

  • Media and public inquiries.
  • Emergency public information and warnings.
  • Rumor monitoring and response.
  • Media monitoring and other functions required to coordinate, clear with appropriate authorities, and disseminate accurate and timely information related to the event or incident.

The PIO also coordinates public information at or near the incident site and serves as the on-scene link to the Joint Information Center (JIC).


Joint Information System

The Joint Information System (JIS):

  • Provides the mechanism to organize, integrate, and coordinate information to ensure timely, accurate, accessible, and consistent messaging across multiple jurisdictions and/or disciplines with nongovernmental organizations and the private sector.
  • Includes the plans, protocols, procedures, and structures used to provide public information.

Federal, State, tribal, territorial, regional, or local Public Information Officers and established Joint Information Centers (JICs) are critical supporting elements of the JIS.


Joint Information Center

The Joint Information Center (JIC) is:

  • A central location that facilitates operation of the Joint Information System.
  • A location where personnel with public information responsibilities perform critical emergency information functions, crisis communications, and public affairs functions.

JICs may be established at various levels of government or at incident sites, or can be components of Multiagency Coordination Systems (e.g., MAC Groups or EOCs). A single JIC location is preferable, but the system is flexible and adaptable enough to accommodate virtual or multiple JIC locations, as required.


Additional Resources

The NIMS Resource Center provides additional information, updates, and resources. The center can be accessed at


Lesson Summary

This lesson introduced ICS as an efficient way to plan for and manage special events. This lesson reviewed the ICS features, management functions, and key organizational elements. Additional information about ICS can be found in the IS-100 course.

The next lesson will outline the special planning considerations required when hosting high-risk special events.

Click on this link to access the Events Contingency Planning Job Aids Manual Chapter 3: National Incident Management System and Incident Command System.



Lesson 6: Planning Considerations for Specific Events

Lesson Overview

This lesson will introduce the special planning considerations that are required when hosting high-risk special events.


Lesson Objectives

At the end of this lesson, you should be able to:

  • Identify events that are high risk.
  • Identify the special planning considerations for those events.


High-Risk Events

Some events pose more risk than others and may require special planning well in advance of the event. Promoters and sponsors are generally aware of the types of risk involved. Planners should work with the promoter or sponsor to ensure that the jurisdiction is prepared to respond appropriately to the hazards presented by the event.

This lesson provides examples of high-risk events and suggests ways to prepare for emergencies that may occur during these events.


Powerboat Races and Similar Aquatic Events

Aquatic events, particularly those involving motorized watercraft, require careful planning. Areas that planners must consider carefully include:

  • Medical support for participants.
  • Setup of spectator areas.


Power Boat Races—Medical Support

A designated medical response boat should be available in the water at all times when boats are operating. The boat should include trained medical personnel and be equipped with a spinal board and resuscitation equipment. The medical boat should also be linked by two-way radio to the rescue boats and onshore medical personnel.

A rescue boat should be available, with experienced divers who are trained to remove personnel trapped underwater.

Landing locations appropriate for the transfer of patients from boats to ambulances should be identified in advance.


Power Boat Races—Spectator Areas

Where spectators will be permitted to line piers and breakwaters along areas of deep waters, planners should create a physical barrier or mark a line to warn spectators away from the edges fronting deep water.

It is also a good idea to have a dedicated boat to patrol the shore adjacent to the spectator area. The boat should be equipped with a loudspeaker to warn spectators who venture too close to the edge. The boat should be equipped for water rescue and resuscitation of injured persons.


Power Boat Races—Rescue Boats

All boats intended for rescue or designated to provide medical attention should be clearly marked and equipped with hazard lighting to warn other vessels off.

Any boat intended for medical assistance or water rescue should contain sufficient clear space to resuscitate a patient. These boats should also include a range of medical supplies and equipment, including:

  • An Automatic External Defibrillator (AED).
  • A spinal board for full-body immobilization and cervical collars.
  • Ventilation equipment.
  • Large pressure dressings.


Automobile and Similar Races

Sponsors of organized auto races conducted by professional racing organizations at permanent facilities normally meet safety guidelines and have sophisticated contingency planning information. For events conducted by local clubs, however, no formal guidelines may exist.

Motocross races, bicycle races, and auto rallies are a source of great concern because of:

  • Limited control over spectators.
  • Often remote locations where they are held.


Automobile and Similar Races—Medical Support for Participants

In the event of a crash, an ambulance with trained staff should be available immediately. Medical support staff must understand racing rules and be able to recognize the various flags and warning lights used by race officials.

The standby ambulance should be positioned for controlled, rapid access to the track. A communications system and procedures should be in place to activate an immediate response to a track emergency.

Firefighting and rescue equipment should also be available at the track.


Automobile and Similar Races—Spectator Areas

Barriers should be in place to isolate spectators from out-of-control vehicles. Experience shows, however, that these barriers can be moved or broken upon impact, causing injuries to spectators. Safety can be enhanced by keeping spectators away from the barriers.

Individuals responsible for barrier design should consider the possibility that one vehicle may mount another or somersault end over end. Barriers should be designed to retard penetration into spectator areas in these situations.

Planners and promoters should remember that parts of automobiles involved in collisions can become projectiles. To protect spectators, a strong wire-mesh debris screen should be attached to the barrier fencing and to the tops of retaining walls.

Major problems have occurred when spectators access the track after the winner has crossed the finish line, but while other competitors are still racing. All officials should be briefed on:

  • Ways to control spectators who intend to access the track.
  • What to do if those control measures fail.


Automobile and Similar Races—Pit Areas

In-race refueling in pit areas creates a potential for fire. To counter this threat, fire extinguishers or other equipment suitable for extinguishing fire must be available at refueling sites.

Vehicles entering the pit lane at high speeds and limited driver visibility increase the risk to both drivers and pit crews. Organizers should consider enforcing speed limits (and penalties for drivers who ignore them) in the pit areas. If possible, organizers should also implement a warning system when vehicles are entering the pits.


Air Shows and Displays

Air shows are usually staged in accordance with aviation rules and regulations. Event organizers, emergency managers, and health personnel should take several steps to reduce the risk of a serious incident. Special precautions are included on the next screens for:

  • Aerobatic areas.
  • Parachute jump areas.
  • Fire-suppression requirements.


Air Shows and Displays—Aerobatic Areas

Aerobatic maneuvers should not take place over built-up areas. They should be conducted over fields, water, airstrips, or other uninhabited areas.

Aircraft should not fly over spectator areas. Where aircraft execute a maneuver laterally, the direction of execution should be away from, or parallel to, the spectators.


Air Shows and Displays—Parachute Jumps

Parachutists can be blown off course and suffer injury or death as a result. Spectators can also be injured in the scramble to avoid a descending jumper. Events that feature parachute jumps should include designated landing zones that are safely away from spectators and create no obvious hazards to the jumpers.


Air Shows and Displays—Fire Suppression Requirements

There are several general safety precautions that should be taken at all air shows.

Onsite fire services should be capable of delivering fire-suppressant foam into a crashed or burning aircraft. If the air show does not take place at an airport where this equipment is available, alternate arrangements should be made to ensure that foam equipment is available.

Organizers should also clearly understand the requirements of the coroner and air crash investigators and be prepared to assist them in the event of a crash.


Fireworks and Pyrotechnics Displays

Shows involving fireworks or pyrotechnics also present specific risks. When event organizers plan public fireworks or pyrotechnics displays, they should notify and work with local authorities including:

  • Law enforcement
  • Fire
  • Emergency medical services

Most pyrotechnical providers follow Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) safety standards for the placement of spectator seating and fireworks launch sites.


Fireworks and Pyrotechnics Displays—Launch Site Placement

Most major incidents involving fireworks can be avoided through careful design of the launch site. Organizers should pay close attention to the anticipated or prevailing wind direction and strength. Both may affect the flight path of fireworks and the area where debris will fall. When establishing site placement and design, an emergency egress route should be identified in case of an emergency.

There is also substantial debris from fireworks displays. The launch site should be situated to ensure that no damage occurs from debris and, if possible, to make cleanup and a search for unexploded fireworks easier.

  • Whenever possible, locate the launch site on water (for example, on a barge or pier). Locating the launch site on water enables personnel to abandon the site easily if an accident occurs and the pyrotechnic supply ignites.
  • Erect a barrier between the crowd and the launch site to protect the crowd if fireworks tip over after ignition, resulting in a lateral, rather than a vertical, projection.
  • Do not allow fireworks to be projected over the heads of spectators because debris is often hot and can injure spectators if it falls into their eyes or onto their heads.
  • Anticipate potential respiratory difficulties, resulting from smoke from the display.
  • If launching over water, do not allow fireworks to be projected over flammable trees, bush areas, buildings, or boats.
  • Require unused fireworks to be stored in covered metal containers to prevent accidental ignition, either by staff or by descending hot particles from previously ignited fireworks.
  • Require fire equipment, including fire extinguishers and trained firefighters, to be immediately available at the launch site.
  • Require all personnel who deploy or ignite fireworks to wear protective clothing, including face shields, helmets, and heavy gloves.
  • After the event, personnel should inspect the launch site carefully to ensure that no incipient or rekindled fires are possible. All used fireworks should be soaked in water and removed from the site, along with any securing spikes, wires, or other potentially hazardous objects.


Laser Displays

Laser light shows are now often included as entertainment at many special events. Before the light show occurs, health care professionals onsite should:

  • Understand the kinds of accidents that can occur.
  • Identify the potential hazards associated with lasers.

Event organizers should always become familiar with the kind and type of laser that will be used and the risks associated with them.


Spontaneous Events

Occasionally, an event occurs without planning. Local emergency management and public safety agencies need to be aware that:

  • Spontaneous events create the same need for emergency response contingencies as planned events.
  • Safety plans or agreed-upon roles and responsibilities for participants will be established.

Spontaneous events present unique difficulties to public safety personnel because they offer no warning—and no time to plan.


Types of Spontaneous Events

There are four basic types of spontaneous events:

  • Events that are planned without official input or permits as a result of an oversight.
  • Events that are planned without official input or permits on purpose.
  • Events that result from other events (for example, a victory celebration for a local sports team).
  • Events that are demonstrations, protests, or picketing (for example, civil disobedience or spontaneous violence).

Because spontaneous events are dynamic, a well-timed and appropriate response is critical to achieving safe outcomes.


Spontaneous Events—Staffing

The use of existing mutual aid and assistance agreements, response plans, training, and resource lists will help communities that are confronted with a spontaneous event. Essential to the outcome, however, is implementing ICS for an orderly and coordinated deployment of resources and personnel.


  • Identifying a Staging Area where additional personnel and resources will be gathered is critical.
  • All personnel must be briefed before assignment.
  • Span of control must be maintained.


Spontaneous Events—Evaluating Other Events

Another essential element when responding to spontaneous events is the continuing evaluation of other events that could be catalysts for spontaneous events. Many spontaneous events occur with some level of expectation by public safety officials.

The significant difference between an organized special event and a spontaneous event is that no planning time exists before a spontaneous event. It is critical, then, to develop contingency plans for events that are high-risk or high probability.


Events Involving Pre-Teen and Early Teen Audiences

Concerts and other events that attract younger audiences can create a number of difficulties. These spectators can become lost or separated from friends, miss transportation, or lack the money to pay for alternate transportation.

Parents often take their children to these events, then have difficulty finding them after the event. If parents are using their cars to pick up children, traffic jams may prevent close access to the venue.

  • Create a “Parents’ Oasis” adjacent to the venue where parents can wait during the concert. Coffee, soft drinks, snacks, and newspapers can be available to help parents pass the time while waiting for the event to conclude. The additional cost and effort devoted to providing a Parents’ Oasis are more than offset by the reduction in efforts needed to deal with young audiences at the conclusion of the event.
  • Provide information booths with access to the public address system to enable clearly identified event staff to assist lost children and their parents.
  • Develop contingency plans for the “worst case”—the occurrence of a major incident exacerbated by the problems of parents attempting to gain access to the area to reunite with their children—or trying to find out where their injured children have been taken.



You may want to review Events Contingency Planning Job Aids Manual Chapter 4: Additional Planning Considerations for Specific Events.


Lesson Summary

This lesson introduced the special planning considerations that are required when hosting high-risk special events.

You have now completed all of the Special Events Contingency Planning content lessons! When you are ready, you should proceed to the Course Summary. To receive credit for the course, you must complete the final exam.