Saturday, June 3, 2023

O Couto 2022 festival: “serious public risk”, without evacuation routes and sale of alcohol to minors

After a year of moments of tension, tension and anxiety at the O Couto festival, it is known that the organizing committee, with which the Ourense city council collaborated, committed up to 14 crimes during that festival, certified by the Ourense local police. Stored in a drawer with more fallout than the show could carry, a local police report describes how “it could have been a tragedy” and that there were irregularities and legislative and regulatory violations in addition to the safety plan. The commission submitted, that May 17, 2022.

The singers of the Panorama Orchestra, microphone in hand, asked more people to enter that day, with possible threats of suspension of the performance. What was supposed to be a 10-minute break at first was instituted as a measure by the local police to regulate all the concentration, to redirect one such event into an hour without music. There was a trace of something more than fear.

“There were moments of great tension,” says an attendee at that festival today. The municipal government at the time described the festival as a “total success”, adding that “there were no relevant incidents to regret.” But a year later, with the O Couto festival being the protagonist of the social, economic and festive life of the city, it is known that the festival violated legislative regulations, as well as the regulations and the security plan presented by the organizing commission itself .

The police report concluded that the incident was of “particular seriousness and risk to the public” due to the following breaches of the safety plan.

  • Capacity exceeded. As far as FARO was able to learn, a security table meeting informed the organizing commission that there would be 5,000 people who would attend the event in the expected and projected manner, but the forecast failed and 5,000 more agreed, counted according to police reports. According to reports, 10,000 people are huddled down a road “with the potential for an avalanche”.
  • More charm than authorized. By order of the mayor’s office, a total of 27 activities were authorized for the event, 20 fairground attractions and 7 street vendors among them. In addition, requests for 22 attractions and 7 street vendors were denied. Despite authorizing only 20 attractions in the complex, up to 42 attractions were counted and street vendors were doubled from only 7 permitted to 14 registered ‘in situ’.
  • Commission permission without municipal authority. Some of the stalls and attractions located on the premises by subcontractors of the Party Commission indicated that they received “authorization” from the Party Commission, despite not being qualified to do so and contradicting the mayor’s decree, which only allowed half of them.
  • Puncture in public light. The stalls that were set up, as well as the beach bar, had to be in possession of the Electrical Installation Certificate and it would be the organizer who would control this circumstance. Nine charms punctured the light without anyone from the commission warning the criminals to stay away from the electric current fraud.
  • There was no private monitoring. The organizer had to anticipate and guarantee various security human resources to control and monitor important points of the party, and even more in case of serious public risk. The police report certifies that at no point was a private security guard observed. Further, the capacity prescribed in the submitted protection plan was not controlled.
  • Without civil defense personnel. Other violations of the security plan for that festival were the absence of civil defense in the area designated in the security plan for any mishap. Despite this being raised by the Commission, there were no fire brigade personnel in the area in case any incident happened.
  • Without fences or signage. The enclosure was to be demarcated by a fence and to completely delimit the party area. As per the security plan, there was no fencing under the orchestra as well as the festival site. Nor any indicator or warning signal in case of public danger.
  • There are no identified persons from the commission. Another unfinished organizational measure was the identity of those who were part of the festival committee. At the scene, “they were not properly identified or wearing anything visible or brightly colored vests that indicated they were from the commission.”
  • There were no exit routes. The police report, to which FARO has access, details the lack of evacuation routes with particular severity and light signals indicating the route, as well as the protection of these points in the event of an incident. The conclusion is that in the event of a gathering of 10,000 people there were no visible routes of evacuation with risks.
  • Communication before a potential avalanche. The safety plan detailed that evacuation routes would be available free of obstructions and that the event would be reported over the public address system for an orderly evacuation and to avoid the risk of avalanches. During the stoppage time, it was the singers of the orchestra and the officials interrupted the event because of the concentration of the people and the danger it could pose.
  • Technical space and patronage of artists. The party space did not have a protocol security separation from the technical area, where the orchestra’s sound and lighting technicians are located, nor did it have a fence that prevented public access to the performers or the orchestra’s area.
  • Dangerous for people with reduced mobility. According to the aforementioned police report, “no space was set aside for people with reduced mobility” at the previous year’s event. Despite the fact that Law 10/2017, of 27 December, does not make explicit reference to a demarcated area, it lists that access and the removal of obstacles are among the principles that govern public performances. There were many present during the program who could not get out of the crowd.
  • Sale of liquor to minors. Agents of the local police had to intervene by filing a complaint against a stall which, at the time of the agents’ arrival, was selling alcohol to minors. In the said situation there was lack of municipal administrative authority to be there and there was no document for the exercise of professional activity. The police report states that the vendor “paid a fee to the organizer and had verbal authorization.”
  • Implementation of security plan. The organizers of the event were responsible for the implementation of the security plan and the establishment of all necessary measures to guarantee everyone’s participation in the show and to ensure the safety of the attendees. In view of the revealed violations, he was responsible for the state of the incident.

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