Salmo’s Shambhala festival committee explores onsite ambulance

Committee hoping to add more safety to popular Kootenay event

In light of its first fatality last summer, the Shambhala Music Festival committee is exploring ways to improve employee and patron safety.

In March, the committee organized a meeting with emergency health services; the Provincial Emergency Program (PEP) team from Trail and Nelson; and Interior Health.

“We are just trying to get everybody to the table to talk about how we can mitigate the impact of our festival on the regional resources,” said Alex Chudis, first aid coordinator for Shambhala.

At that meeting, Chudis introduced the idea of a private ambulance, purchased by Shambhala, which would stay on site for the entire festival.

However, for now, the ambulance cannot be used for any of the 14,000 people who will be attending the festival in August.

“From a personal point of view, I think it is a good thing that we are trying to help mitigate the impact of our festival in the community,” he said.

“But there are a lot of rules and regulations that need to be complied with, and it is a fine line we walk.”

Chudis said that the emergency transport vehicle can be used for the 2000 staff and volunteers, some of who begin set up on May long weekend.

“The purchase of an emergency transport vehicle is to be in compliance with WCB and Worksafe BC regulations,” explained Chudis.

“We are seen as a camp that is remote from any service in the community (excluding Salmo).”

“We have weeks and weeks of work and hundreds of people who are going to be on site during construction,” he said.

“And, there are always incidents during construction.”

Over the five-day festival, Shambhala has at least two doctors, and 40 registered nurses on site.

Additionally, the festival has set up facilities with medical equipment, including heart monitors, oxygen tanks, defibrillators and spine boards.

“Every year, we review a mass scenario with all the staff and department heads, to make sure that safety training is up to date,” said Chudis.

“All we are striving to do at Shamhbala is improve safety,” said Chudis.

“And we are just trying to exercise our due diligence by having our own ambulance.”

Salmo Coun. Jennifer Peel said that Shambhala is listening to the needs of the community with its latest offer of a private onsite ambulance to improve attendees’ safety.

“This has been such a struggle for them, and they have gone above and beyond to listen to the needs of the community on this particular issue,” she said.

“All they are trying to do is help take the pressure off our community’s ambulance.”

Regarding the overdose death last year, Chudis said the safety committee has completed an internal investigation and received the coroner’s report.

The festival is currently awaiting a no fault inquest to be completed by the coroner’s office.