Venue capacity and emergency exits for large events

You will need to work out the maximum number of people your event venue can take safely. This will have a bearing on how many emergency exits you need and what you should provide in the way of catering, toilets and facilities for people with disabilities.

If your event will take place in permanent building, the venue providers may be able to give you details of its maximum capacity.

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You will need to draw up a detailed site plan that shows the location of any structures like stages, seating, sound and light towers, catering and sales areas.  The remaining floor space will be available for the visitors to the event.  For a standing crowd, it is normal to allow 0.5m2 of floor space per person when working out the number of people your venue can take safely.

Floor space isn’t the only consideration in determining how many people your site can take safely. You also need to work out how long it would take to evacuate the premises should an emergency occur.

In practice it takes one minute for 85 to 90 people to pass through a metre width of escape route, though it could take longer if the route leading away from the exit narrows or includes a sharp turn that could slow people down.  You should also work out how long the evacuation would take if one of the escape routes is blocked.  You need to be sure that there would be enough exits remaining to allow people to escape quickly and safely.

If you wouldn’t be able to evacuate everyone in the appropriate time you will need to either reduce the numbers attending, install extra exits or choose a different venue.

Also bear in mind that:

  • You must make provision for the safe evacuation of disabled people.
  • In open field sites uneven ground or steep slopes can increase the risk of slipping, tripping or falling. 
  • Slopes can also provide better views, which mean they can also be overcrowded.
  • If you are using an existing venue, you still need to check whether there are enough facilities for the numbers you are expecting to attend the event.