Opinion

Time To Have A Critical Look At Safety & Security @ Event Venues In Ghana

For the past years, disasters have been recorded at various events across the World; the 2010 Love Parade in Germany and Water Festival in Cambodia amongst many others – and for a minute, it felt as though, such incidents would never happen here in Ghana – especially when these entertainment-related events are organized without any unfortunate eventualities.

Time Bomb:

The unfortunate incident that transpired at Asawase during the jam to climax the ‘Sallah’ which resulted in a death of 9 people, was the culmination of that time bomb we have been sitting on for years – with regards to the slapdash manner our events are organized.

Only God knows the level of casualties that would have been recorded if such a situation had occurred at the highly-patronized Accra Sports Stadium, the Accra International Conference Center or the National Theatre.

The signs have always been on the wall that, if measures were not put in place, such incidents would befall us and as typical humans and Ghanaians as we are, we only react when disaster strikes. Let’s get to work!

Sheer Neglect For Safety, Health & Security:

Event organizers are overly conscious of commercial gains when they put up events, which makes them compromise on safety. When drawing their plan, they check out areas such as sound, light, stage set-up, performances, and security at gates to check tickets but woefully fail to check out safety and health – the two most important areas for such gatherings.

Interestingly, they contract personnel to take charge of various disciplines of production but neglect reaching out to Safety and Health officials.

For years, patrons have always been waltzing in and out of events, oblivious of any safety or health arrangements made for them at such venues. It’s always fun until disaster strikes!

Alarming Situation:

There are so many risks at venues that house music concerts, movie screening, night clubs, theater, and many others – risks that stare us in the face every time we step into such facilities.

The unavailability of enough entry and exit points, live wires scattered at the foyer, near the entrance and on the stage are all risks.

Fire and fireworks hazards, suffocation risks due to lack of ventilation or over-crowding, unruly spectators, tripping hazards and the lack of illumination on the steps at places like the National Theater and the Conference Center are other risks.

Causes of Stampede:

Although investigations are yet to be concluded, survivors and analysts claim that, what happened at Asawase, was caused by a stampede which was triggered by some false alarm about a fight breaking.

Research including one conducted by the John Hopkins Magazine, depicts that most stampedes are simply caused by panic and it goes on to suggest that;  human psychology undergoes a change when people are forced into tight spaces, and when put under such pressure, crowds tend to move as one and ignore alternate exits, accelerating the possibility of disaster. Many of those who die in stampedes perish standing up – crushed and unable to breathe.

Overcrowding, where event organizers over-fill venues with more than the estimated number of attendants; has also been cited as one major cause of stampede in many of the deadliest crowd-related incidents in the world.

Way Forward:

To avert another Asawase debacle and any future eventuality at our event spaces, mechanisms must be put in place to ensure the safety and security of patrons and properties.

Event organizers must collaborate effectively with organizations such as the Ghana Police, the Ghana Fire Service, Ghana Health Services and the Ambulance Services in ensuring that safety, health and security are not compromised.

Before the start of any event, it must be mandatory for organizers to give patrons a safety brief on where to find exit points, where to get first aid and the steps to be taken in case of fire, injury, stampede, etc.

Fire extinguishers, first-aid kits, and other safety equipment deemed necessary must be kept within easy access of people and in the vicinity of the hazard points. The entry and exit routes must be clearly identified and should be spacious enough to accommodate the flow of the expected crowd.

The contact numbers of the fire department, police station, and hospital should be available with all crew members, just in case.

Survival Tips In Stampede Situation:

Paul Wertheimer, one of the world’s experts on crowd control, provides life-saving tips on how to survive through a panic-stricken crowd in any stampede situation.

According to him, you should take a moment to make a mental note of all the exits in a venue as soon as you arrive. The natural urge is to use the same entry when you exit, not because it’s safer, but it’s familiar. Paul says there may be an alternative exit being used by fewer people that will get you out more quickly, very handy if you already know where it is.

Paul’s survival tips are; Stay on your feet/ Conserve energy – don’t push against the crowd and don’t yell or scream/Use sign language to communicate with those around you (point, wave, even use your eyes)/Keep your hands up by your chest, like a boxer – it gives you movement and protects your chest/If you’re in danger ask people to crowd surf you out/If someone extends their hand for help, grab hold to keep them up.

 

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