Keeping Events Safe in the Wake of Tragedy
On Sunday, October 1, 2017, scores of concertgoers descended on a 15-acre open-air venue along the Las Vegas Strip to enjoy the Route 91 Harvest Festival. The night would take a grim turn when a gunman opened fire from the 32nd story window of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, killing 59 people and injuring hundreds more. The harrowing ordeal is now the largest mass shooting in modern American history. While an infamous distinction, the concert tragedy is not a one-off event. Only five months earlier on May 22, a suicide bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, left 22 dead and 59 wounded.
Understanding the opportunity for acts of violence that festivals and concerts present, what can special event organizers do to better ensure safety for all concerned?
Planning for worst-case scenarios like an active shooter or an explosion not only empowers team members but can save lives should a crisis unfold. Open a communication channel between the different crews that work together staging respective events to promote situational awareness. Discuss crisis logistics and designate the leaders that will interact with first responders. In addition, determine the best method to protect front-of-house (FOH) crew, whether it’s strategic staging of equipment cases or some type of other shelter.
COMMUNICATE WITH ATTENDEES
Even though the staff members of an event may be armed with procedural information should tragedy strike, it’s unlikely the attendees will know what to do, especially during the chaotic confusion of gunfire or explosions. Therefore, it is imperative to communicate an evacuation plan with attendees using a PA system and video screens. Event coordinators should predetermine which message(s) will be communicated during an emergency, who will do the communicating, and how to leverage technology to disseminate the message as quickly as possible.
A defensive strategy involves vigilance in the run-up to, and during an event. Terrorists typically recon a target prior to executing an attack. It’s during these pre-event setup days that staff members should stay alert, note suspicious activity, and contact the proper authorities when necessary. Assign personnel to sweep for strange packages or unauthorized vehicles. And it’s always wise for security to tag all bags and cases coming into a venue prior to the event.
It is increasingly important for event organizers to put security measures and emergency protocols in place to keep concertgoers safe. VER brings experiences to life using advanced equipment and expert crews. Recent tragedies have prompted us to become more active in creating a safe environment during events. Among other initiatives, we are becoming a sponsor of the Event Safety Alliance (ESA). Let’s work together to evolve the industry and keep events safe.