The predominant focus in risk mitigation should always be to prevent risks from occurring (where possible). However venue and event managers should also be well prepared as preventing every scenario is not possible. Contingency and emergency planning are important features in risk planning. Recent incidents affecting Wollongong’s WIN Stadium and Canberra’s Exhibition Park demonstrate the need for preparedness as circumstances beyond the control of venue and event teams can strike at any time.
Bad Weather Wreaking Havoc at WIN
Extreme weather is an obvious example. Last month, strong winds caused two connection points in the support truss from the roof of WIN Stadium's new western grandstand to fail, causing part of the roof to become unstable and a full venue evacuation to be undertaken at the adjacent WIN Entertainment Centre and Steelers Club, and an exclusion zone being maintained for 12 days.
Construction on the new $31 million grandstand of the stadium was nearing completion when the incident occurred. No one was injured and no additional damage was caused, and it was fortunate that the incident occurred before the venue was open for public use and while the builder was still on site to undertake stabilisation activities. Investigations are underway to establish what went wrong and how the roof can be re-engineered and completed.
Canberra Fire Causes Exhibition Park Evacuation
Exhibition Park in Canberra was also affected on September 16 due to concern over a toxic smoke plume from a factory fire in nearby Mitchell, North Canberra. The incident occurred late at night but the venue was still hosting a horse show and on-site camping.
The fire generated a series of explosions and fireballs and a smoke plume was observed extending for many kilometres toward the east over the venue. The police established a 10-km exclusion zone around the fire.
The entire venue was evacuated and no injuries were reported.
These cases demonstrate that for venues and events, risks may not always come from within your area of control. Risk and emergency planning should aim to expect the unexpected, but to prepare to respond in a decisive way. In both cases the incidents occurred outside of peak event times and so risk planning must take these off-peak times into account.