In the Northern Hemisphere Summer there has been a recent spate of roller coaster incidents that have delivered a different type of experience for their adventurous passengers. As reported by the BBC, at Alton Towers theme park in the UK, the ‘Smile’ ride had almost reached the top of its first incline when it suddenly stopped, leaving riders with a view of the sky above and a dramatic drop below. This was the second emergency in recent months, after a more serious incident in June 2015 saw a number of people seriously injured when the cart they were travelling in hit another cart on the ride at approximately 80 km/h. Both carts crashed to the ground, and emergency services spent several hours freeing the passengers from the wreckage.

Earlier this year in the US, the Fortier City theme park in Oklahoma City, a rollercoaster failed and eight people were trapped in their carts at height for several hours before being rescued.   Last week there was also a cable car stranded in Mont Blanc in the French Alps with 33 passengers forced to stay overnight requiring a daring rescue by helicopter the next day at 12,500 ft above sea level.

While the emergency-related risks associated with theme park rides are significant, there are some strong learnings that can be applied here in other public venues.  These incidents reinforce the importance of well-rehearsed emergency management plans. Plans must be specific to the venue and regularly practiced to ensure they will work when activated under emergency conditions.

In Australia, the Australian Standard AS3745 – Emergency Planning in Facilities provides a useful guide for structuring emergency arrangements.  The Emergency Management Plan should set out the arrangements for emergency response and recovery and should integrate with the Crisis Management Plan, to manage adverse reputational risk, and the Business Continuity Plan, to manage recovery of critical business functions.

The Emergency Management Plan should also consider how the organisation supports emergency services when they arrive.  In Australia, emergency services generally follow the Australasian Inter-Service Incident Management System (AIIMS) for Emergency Management. This system is scalable based upon the seriousness and length of the emergency, and involves the appointment of a site Incident controller and functional units.  The AIIMS model typically has five functional areas:

  • Control - The management of all activities necessary for the resolution of an incident.
  • Planning - The collection and analysis of information and the development of plans for the resolution of an incident.
  • Public Information - Provision of warnings, information and advice to the public and liaison with the media and affected communities.
  • Operations - The tasking and application of resources to achieve resolution of an incident.
  • Logistics - The acquisition and provision of human and physical resources, facilities, services and materials to support a safe resolution of the incident.
In our opinion, of all risk management plans at public venues, the Emergency Management Plans are one of the most important!  If you haven’t dragged yours out for some time, we’d encourage you to do so!!