The tragic death of ten people at a Houston rap concert in November is a grim reminder to event promoters and venue managers everywhere for the need for crowd control and security at mega-events. Those who lost their lives in Houston ranged from just nine years old to 27 years old. The medical examiner ruled the cause of death compression asphyxia from being trampled during a crowd surge at the concert.
Now, the rap artist Travis Scott and event organizers are at the center of a criminal investigation concerning liability. An operations plan for the festival detailed protocol for scenarios such as a shooter, bomb or terrorist threats, and severe weather, but not a crowd surge.
Unfortunately, events like this are not unheard of. One of the most notable and earliest was in 1979 when eleven music fans died in a scramble to enter a Who concert in Cincinnati. Such events are a solemn reminder to the promoters and planners of such events and those working security at mega-events. “Safety has no profit,” said G. Keith Still, a crowd science expert at the U.K.’s University of Suffolk, “so it tends to be the last thing in the budget.” Still has conducted “research covering over 100 years of disasters, and invariably they all come down to very similar characteristics.”
So what are some of the best practices to implement when planning a large event?
- It’s essential for the venue/promoter to have a professional in “responsible charge” for the safety and security of the event. Promoters can hire a certified contractor if a permanent staff member is unavailable. However, the quality of such contractors is of the utmost importance. In many of the incidents with tragic outcomes, promoters hire the lowest-bidding security contractor, who in turn sends unprepared staff.
- Consider the guidelines set by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), local fire code, and staffing limits when planning the event to make sure that the crowd density doesn’t exceed the guidelines. Be sure to account for the number of tickets sold, the event staffing to control them, exit availability, and avenues of egress for people to move within.
- Prepare for events that could cause the crowds to rush in one area or direction. The catalyst may be something quite dramatic or as ordinary as inclement weather. Qualified security and safety personnel will know when, based on the energy of the crowds, to take precautions needed to break large crowds into smaller groups and divert them into different sections around the stage or field. This also allows pathways for event staff and emergency exits when needed.
Event organizers must consider crowd management when planning the security of their events. With the proper procedures in place to report red flags and warnings, professional safety personnel can do much to reduce the liability of the venue/organizer and to avoid the deadly outcomes that go along with poor planning and security. It behooves promoters, venue managers, and sporting clubs to heed this horrible event and plan properly with trained security professionals. And, security teams must never forget that they carry with them a duty to protect and care for the safety of people at each event they work.