Preventing tragedies at concerts and other public events starts with situational awareness
The recent deaths of ten people at an Astroworld concert have brought the discussion of safety and accountability at crowded events to the forefront of the event industry. People have pointed fingers at performer Travis Scott, as well as security staff and the concertgoers themselves. Lost in all of the scrambling for a scapegoat is the true million-dollar question, “How do we prevent this from happening again?”
Responsibility falls on patrons as well
Situational awareness is a big key to preventing unwanted or tragic incidents. This responsibility falls on not only those working in the event industry but on the patrons as well. Audience members should be aware of the nearest exits, pay attention to the behaviors of people nearby and be prepared to sacrifice convenience for safety. Using the buddy system can also help to decrease the odds of a tragedy occurring.
Tips for promoting large crowd safety
For those planning and executing large events, situational awareness is not the only piece of the puzzle. As the event industry examines how to best promote safety among large crowds, there are several other points to consider.
- First and foremost, the event industry must work together to get out the message that safety is the highest priority. An event like the Astroworld tragedy has the power to undermine all of the good being done in the industry. Instead of allowing the negative backlash to result in a clamber for extra regulations and oversight, this is the time to underscore the positive measures the industry has taken to ensure safety and to focus on moving forward.
- When planning for an event, everyone involved should think through the motivations of the patrons. We are living in a time when people are more likely to pull out their phones to film an event than to intervene on behalf of those in trouble. And in the era of a pandemic there are new challenges in trying to predict crowd behaviors. Guidelines related to masks and social distancing can produce angry responses. Societal behaviors are changing, and the event industry must adapt accordingly.
- A clear chain of communication should be established between everyone involved in running a major event. This is the time to analyze all policies related to crowd management and plug any holes. Communication should be explicit between all involved parties, from the performer to venue security to law enforcement.
- Those in charge of major events should disclose their security measures whenever possible. This can help to reduce any public perception of flippancy regarding safety and security. Patrons should know that there are plans in place to handle medical emergencies and that law enforcement will rapidly respond in the event of any safety threat.
Terrible incidents do not need to define the event industry. Those working on events can learn from the past, focus on the positive and continue providing wonderful experiences for their patrons.
Source: William Rabb, “Astroworld Reminds Us – Semper Vigilans.” Sports Facilities and the Law, November-December 2021.