By Allison G. S. Knox
Contributor, EDM Digest
Many fire and emergency management departments sponsor carnivals as fundraisers for their organizations. Carnivals can also be excellent public relations tools for first responder organizations, because citizens come out in droves to participate in the rides, attractions and the many types of foods available.
Unfortunately, rides at carnivals and state and county fairs sometimes experience mishaps that can cause serious injuries or even death. In one respect, these accidents are simply a matter of probability. With so many carnivals and fairs each year all over the country, a few accidents are bound to happen sooner or later.
Even so, carnival accidents raise many public policy questions. Do we have enough public safety policies and mechanisms in place to prevent injuries? Are the risks associated with carnival rides worth the potential fundraising money? Finally, do carnival accidents occur often enough to be a real concern?
July 2017 Carnival Accident in Ohio Killed One Rider, Injured Seven
When carnival or fair accidents happen, they can be particularly frightening. During this summer alone, there have been at least eight incidents at carnivals, water parks and fairs. In July, for example, a carnival ride came apart at the Ohio State Fair in Columbus, killing one person and injuring seven others.
Incidents like the Ohio State Fair accident create difficult public relations problems. The fair reopened, but the rides – which had been inspected only days earlier – were closed until they could be re-inspected.
Federal and State Agencies Oversee Safety at Public Events
Rides must be inspected regularly to minimize the chances of an accident. According to the California-based nonprofit public service organization Saferparks, numerous federal and state agencies have jurisdiction over the management and inspection of carnival and fair rides.
Like so many other public policies at all levels of government, collaboration among various agencies ensure that public safety policies are working well. Considering the relatively few ride incidents there are and the large crowds who frequent carnivals and fairs each year, public safety policies appear to be working well.
Emergency Management Plans for Mass Casualty Incidents
Most emergency management agencies have plans for handling mass casualty incidents. Local, state and federal governments follow the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s “Guide for All-Hazard Emergency Operations Planning,” which makes management plans versatile and flexible.
Of course, it is ultimately impossible to prevent every accident from happening. But public safety policies generally work very well, so fairs and carnivals will remain one of our favorite summer pastimes.