Prime Time Crime


(Prime Time Crime exclusive July  3, 2015)


Summer Music Festival Safety Plan for Canada 


By Eve Field

Summer is here and a string of music festivals are set to make it one of the most memorable in Canada. However, festival season can also mean trouble: in 2014, five deaths at Canadian festivals have lead the Canadian Centre for Substance Abuse to release a report detailing preventive measures (.pdf) against drug- and alcohol-related risks at large public events. 

The report was drafted by a group of experts from various specialties, including harm reduction, toxicology, substance use epidemiology, festival production, etc. Various viewpoints were required to identify the major risks which occur at large-scale events, and to determine an appropriate response.

The report identified four areas that should be given priority:

1.  Event organization and design:

The authors of the report stated that community health services and event organizers should meet and set up adequate resources and facilities to ensure festivalgoers remain hydrated; potable water be available for free. For this purpose, a minimum number of spigots per number of festival attendees should be provided, and these should be placed in strategically valid places. Sanitation resources should also be made available.


2.  Promotion of health and harm reduction: 
Specific areas should be set up, separate from the crowd, called ‘safe’ or ‘chill’ spaces. Here, those who have used substances can relax and seek any help they may need, and get away from noise and activity when they are experiencing undesirable side-effects of drug use. The report stipulated that ‘trip sitting’ professionals should be available, to help those experiencing anxiety, depression, or other mental states worsened by drug use or other factors.  

Prevention is also key; information pertaining to drug abuse at festivals should we widely spread. Finally, research into the impact of drug checking or testing services should be considered.  It was also suggested that booths should be set up to distribute health materials (like condoms, sunscreen, ear plugs, electrolytes, sterile water, etc.). Free informative booklets should be provided on-site. Non-judgmental training should be given to all event personnel on common behaviors and symptoms of drug and alcohol use, so a quick and efficient response can be provided. Finally, drug- and alcohol-free zones should be set up.  Finally, any important information gathered at festivals (for instance, regarding new drug trends) should be shared with organizers of future festivals.

3.    Mass gathering medicine:

An optimal medical response for music festivals should be arranged, said the report; there should be better facilities for medical professionals to be able to comfortably and efficiently attend to patients at music festivals. It was suggested that physicians should be on-site, as well as specialists in pre-hospital and emergency backgrounds. Plans should also be made for areas outside of the official boundaries of the event. These include nearby parking lots, etc. This issue can be addressed through the establishment of a ‘fringe’ response team.   The sharing of information is vital, so that data collected at events regarding type and number of patients attended to, should be kept in a centralized database and exchanged with researchers to help create measures that will increase safety at musical events.  All information gathered can be used to train future teams regarding how to respond to common issues that occur at festivals.

4.  Enforcement and event security:

Security measures should be standardized and strengthened. Law enforcement officials and event organizers should meet and plan risk management on site, communication methods, control of traffic, medical and natural disasters and emergency responses, rules for dealing with drugs ceased during the festival, etc. Incidents involving drugs and other health concerns should be shared with event staff and stakeholders. The authors of the report noted that social media should play an important role in keeping attendees, organizers, medical staff and security services of any drug-related harms taking place. 

Music Festivals in Canada in Summer 2015:

There are a wealth of exciting festivals lined up, and it is good to know that the Canadian Centre for Substance Abuse is working on making them safer and more enjoyable. Some of the biggest events to watch out for include the Cavendish Beach Music Festival in July, the Pan-Am Games in July and August, Interstellar Rodeo in July and August and the Hillside Festival in July. There are many more events to keep you entertained; make sure you have a safe and enjoyable time and watch out for your friends as well as yourself.

        Prime Time Crime                              Contributing 2015