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Advice for Event Planners

Dorset Police recognise that public events enhance our quality of life and our economy. If you are thinking of organising an event, we want it to be done is a planned and safe way.

The breadth, range and scale of event is extremely wide, but here are some key points: 

  • The responsibility for public safety at an event, generally speaking sits with the event organiser / landowner.
  • Advice from statutory authorities (including police) can be accessed through Safety Advisory Groups (SAG). These groups are held to give you advice and feedback on your proposed event from our perspective. This is to help you make your event run safely and avoid problems. SAGs are often chaired by Local Authorities. 
  • Police advice at a SAG will focus on issues of crime, disorder and how to deal with emergencies, for example, guidance on security, lost child procedures, vigilance, suspicious packages, briefing, communications, routines and good command and control. 
  • Traffic management is important and should be planned in conjunction with the local Authority Highways Department. Emergency services will be keen to ensure the Traffic Management plan is good enough to cope with arrival and departure of emergency service vehicles.
  • If your event includes ‘licensable activities’ you may need a Licence or Temporary Event Notice.

Things to consider:

In general the public perception is that the police are the lead agency for approving all public events, including those which take place on the public highway. In reality, the Police have no authority to either approve or ban such events and in fact, Police powers to regulate traffic for planned events are extremely limited. Furthermore, the Police have no general duty to preserve public safety at an event except where there are imminent or likely threats to life.

Legal opinion suggests the responsibility for public safety rests with

  • the organisers of an event,
  • the owners of the land on which it takes place
  • Possibly the local authority if the event takes place on a road
  • Any person agency who undertakes actions regarding public safety at an event may assume a duty of care and therefore also become responsible.

We’ll look at whet your proposing and consider what risks it presents. In many case we simply hold a record in a calendar of events. This helps us to understand what events are taking place in our area.

If you send us your plans, we’ll include those in that calendar entry. Particularly useful are contact details of people in charge of your event, just in case we need to be in touch.

We recommend you look at advice. The main links are;

  • The Can do Guide
  • Purple Guide
  • Purple Guide lite

Specific Police Advice will be only relate to our core duties of

  • The prevention / detection of crime
  • Prevention or stopping of public disorder
  • Traffic regulation (powers are extremely limited, and mostly relate to unforeseen emergencies like RTCs)
  • Activation of a contingency plan where there is an immediate threat to life and co-ordination of resultant emergency service activities.

We recommend organisers attend Safety Advisory Groups. These are usually hosted by the local authority in the area the event is to take place. There is usually representation from the emergency services and some Local Authority departments, like Highways, and Environmental health. The group will look at your plans and give advice on how you can run it safely.

Dedicated Police Services can be assured at an event through payment, “Special Police Services” under (S25 Police 1996) (for example Police attendance at football grounds is paid for through SPS)

Community Engagement is extremely valuable to us and we appreciate the opportunity to do so at public events, however the Police Officers and PCSOs may be deployed elsewhere prior to the event or at any time during it. Therefore police attendance cannot be relied upon and organisers’ plans should not rely on police presence.

Calling the Police (e.g. 999 or 101 call). The call for service will be risk assessed, graded and response officers deployed accordingly. We hope organisers plans and arrangements will minimise the need for calls for service.

We often get requests to attend to help people across the road at such events as running events and ceremonial events, including Remembrance Day. Regrettably Police, this is not a core police function and furthermore police have no powers to stop and direct traffic in such circumstances. The solution to these issues should be explored with the Local Authority Highways dept. 

Guidance dictates a suitable number of stewards / security and the correct level of competence.


All staff need to know

Guidance dictates. … an handbook could be useful  for staff, with details they may need, including details of what they need to do if you invoke any of your contingency plans.

If the event includes licensable activity, a license will be required… or a Temporary Event Notice may be suitable.

You Local licensing Authority

A grand name, for having a grip on your event

Have someone in charge, (often called the Safety Officer).

Who knows the event, knows the plans, knows the available resources, is in a position to get information as it becomes available and give instructions to event staff.  (Therefore communications are important) Not tired, able to make good decisions.

This person needs to be able to focus on emerging issues and devote the full attention to quickly and effectively addressing them.

This role is scalable, according to the scale of the event. You may need levels of command, and an incident log. You should also have a contingency for the Safety Officer in case of illness and a shift pattern to ensure they are not too tried to make good decisions.

Again see the Purple Guide or Purple Guide Lite for more detail.

Public Event

Useful Links

  • The Can-Do Guide 
    • Includes links to advice on community events, street parties, fireworks, cycling and road running events
  • Purple Guide 
    • Full version - £25 charge
  • Purple Guide Lite 
    • Free of charge – aimed at smaller community and Voluntary events