Home Opinion Carnival Ride Accidents and Their Impact on First Responder Public Policies

Carnival Ride Accidents and Their Impact on First Responder Public Policies


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.

Allison G. S. Knox Passionate about the issues affecting ambulances and disaster management, Allison focuses on Emergency Management and Emergency Medical Services policy. Allison has taught at the undergraduate level since 2010. Prior to teaching, she worked in a level-one trauma center emergency department and for a member of Congress in Washington, D.C. She holds four master’s degrees in Emergency Management, National Security Studies, International Relations, and History; a Graduate Certificate in Homeland Security; and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. Allison is an Emergency Medical Technician, Lifeguard, and Lifeguard Instructor, and is trained in Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue. She serves on the Board of Trustees for Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society as Chancellor of the Southeast Region, Vice Chair of the Tactical Emergency Medical Support Committee with the International Public Safety Association, and serves as the Advocacy Coordinator of Virginia with the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians. She is also a member of several committees including the Editorial Committee with APCO, the Rescue Task Force Committee with the International Public Safety Association, and the Advocacy Committee with the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians. She also serves as Chair of the Leadership Development Program for the 2020 Pi Gamma Mu Triennial Convention. Allison has published several book reviews and continues to write about issues affecting ambulances, emergency management, and homeland security.