The Joy Of SAGs

by ben spencer

Event people, you've been to your SAGs. For those less fortunate, welcome to the world - the very, very dry world - of the Safety Advisory Group.

What's this? It's a multi-agency forum in which events get discussed - or more specifically, their health and safety. Typically, it involves a large room with about thirty people round the table, each representing either a council department, emergency service or other operational authority. And at the end sits you.

You've just presented your event to the room. You've run through your security plan, audience management plan, production plan, publicity plan, barrier plan, welfare plan, health and safety plan, traffic management plan, accreditation plan, contingency plan, noise management plan, waste management plan, and wind management plan. (You've done a lot of planning.) Now you're going to be grilled. 

I approach SAGs with a heavy heart. The very acronym is enough to wilt the spirit. The first one I went to was in Greenwich in 2011 for BT River of Music - and we were summarily interrogated.

But I've learnt over the years how important and useful they can be. They're not always to be feared. Occasionally you're not asked any questions at all. But even if questions arise it's mostly beneficial: not only for those asking them, but for us, the event planners.

Because as we know, all plans are imperfect - even beautifully crafted 200-page event management plans. We may have overlooked something, or not considered its impact. We may be underestimating, or overestimating.

Events are complex beasts with a lot of elements involved - and a lot of people. They can be just as organisationally convoluted as a large building project - and, what's more, they involve the public. Taking your plans to the SAG may be unpleasant at times - but it is also drawing from the deep well of event experience round the table.

SAGs are like lymph nodes in the timeline of your event. They strengthen the planning immune system, helping to fight off unforeseen risks and hazards. They are not sexy or particularly fun. But they make your event safe.