As good as it is to see football and cricket and other sports returning to television, allowing spectators back into sports grounds and stadiums will be a major step forward in getting life ‘back to normal’. But the social distancing measures that need to be put in place for this to happen, will also significantly impact on the fire safety procedures of the venues.
The urgency to get spectators back into sports venues is all too real. According to recent projections, the pre-coronavirus annual revenue generated by the global sports industry has practically halved, falling from £106bn to £57bn and it’s predicted that should the impacts of the coronavirus shutdown continue, Premier League clubs will suffer a £1billion loss.
So how might social distancing measures impact on fire risk assessments and procedures?
Alan Meyrick, Security Consultant, SGW Safety & Security Ltd, has considered some of the difficulties sports venues are likely to encounter. For example, “how are staff assembly points, or assembly points in general, going to change in terms of location, spatial consideration and management? Will venue operators have to allocate a larger area, and do they have the spatial requirements to ensure social distancing is maintained and apply the correct hygiene measures whilst people assemble’?
Clear, unambiguous communication at critical times is key to safe crowd management, particularly wayfinding and signage supported by public address systems and fully trained stewarding. Additional fire safety measures could include a fire marshal stationed next to a fire door that needs to remain open to allow one-way circulation around the venue but would have to be closed in the event of a fire. In the event of an emergency, standard operational procedures for emergency egress should be followed and may take precedence over social distancing requirements.
Alan Meyrick concludes by sounding a note of caution. “I would envisage venue operators will have to conduct revised Fire Evacuation Plan drills and exercises in line with best practice regarding Covid-19 measures ahead of stadiums being open, albeit in a restricted manner, to the public in October.
“Fundamentally, it is assumed that stadia operators would take the preservation of life as a priority, perhaps to the detriment and breach of social distancing and COVID-19 measures in the event of an emergency evacuation, which could expose the venue operator to challenges around their policies and practices at a later date, particularly in the event of a COVID outbreak originating at their venue.”
“As government public safety guidance develops to anticipate the easing of safety measures for lockdown in many sectors (retail, hospitality, sport, etc.), this official guidance must be read together with the existing comprehensive guidelines that are defined by the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order, the RRO”.
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