Organizing for Safety: Overdose Prevention for Event and Festival Organizers

Organizers of music festivals, sporting events, and other large gatherings across B.C. are stepping up to plan festivities with harm reduction practices in mind to prevent, identify and respond to overdoses in case they happen. Is your festival harm reduction ready?

What Can Event Organizers Do to Prevent and Respond to an Overdose?

  1. Work with the local authority to prepare for emergencies. Follow the Major Planned Event Guidelines (PDF) to ensure attendees’ safety. Make sure you have an event medical team that is trained and certified, and has planned with local health and emergency response officials.
  2. Have naloxone kits readily available. Naloxone is a medication that can quickly reverse the effects of an overdose from opioids such as heroin, morphine, fentanyl, carfentanil, and codeine. Highly-toxic synthetic opioids are being found in samples of many illegal substances in B.C., including some party drugs.
  3. Offer harm reduction and drug-checking services. Put together a harm reduction team to have on site. A harm reduction tent can be a safe place for people to get life-saving materials and information from trained staff. Learn how to provide drug-checking at your event and how it fits with other harm reduction services. Be aware, fentanyl test strips used to check street drugs before consumption have some limitations.
  4. Train your volunteers. Volunteers are often on the ground interacting face-to-face with festival goers. Teach volunteers how to recognize the signs of an overdose and how to respond. Encourage them to take naloxone training, which is now available online. Have your volunteers walk around the event grounds so they can let attendees know where to find services, like medical help.
  5. Give clear instructions on how people can get medical help at the event. Make sure attendees know where the first aid tent is and where harm reduction services are located. Create an event map and clearly mark where to find help. Share this information widely – post the information on your website, print posters or other handouts to give away at the event.
  6. Plan communications to keep people safe. Does your event or festival use social media? Are your followers using a hashtag for the event? Use your channels to remind festival goers about the risks of using drugs alone, as well as the signs of an overdose. Encourage attendees to look out for each other. You can also use social media as a tool to alert people of fentanyl detection or overdoses during the run of your event. A number of resources, including the opioid awareness wallet card, are available for free from Health Canada. Use them and distribute them widely. You may be saving a life!

Recommended Resources
Drug Use During Festival Season
Learn How to Respond to an Overdose
Major Planned Event Guidelines (PDF)
Drug Checking at Festivals: A How to Guide