The last two years have seen some of the most horrific tragedies in musical performance history – 49 people were killed at an Orlando nightclub in a hate crime; The Voice contestant Christina Grimmie was gunned down as she signed autographs following a performance; 22 people were killed at Ariana Grande’s concert in Manchester by a suicide bomber; and 59 people were killed and more than 500 injured in the Route 91 Festival in Las Vegas when a shooter opened fire on concertgoers.
Unfortunately, senseless killings by individuals are not the only tragedies that have plagued concerts and large events – 100 people were killed and 200 injured in the Rhode Island nightclub fire when attendees became trapped trying to exit a narrow hallway; and a teenage girl died at Australia’s Big Day Out festival because the promoters ignored the headliner’s warning prior to the concert that there were insufficient barriers set up in the stadium.
These concert tragedies have a common thread: there were additional measures that could have been taken to either prevent them from happening — or at least mitigate the fallout.
There are several things that these concert venues and other large gathering places must do to protect their performers and audiences:
- Every venue must ensure that security at concerts is a collaborative effort, utilizing every employee in the Venue, from the ticket takers to the food services personnel, with everyone looking for anything or anyone that is suspicious or otherwise out of the ordinary – and there must a chain of command for reporting, so that there is one person at the venue who knows everything that is happening, no matter how seemingly insignificant.
- That collaborative effort includes the audience. Everyone should check the exits as soon as they enter a venue, making certain that they take the easiest route in the event of an emergency. Everyone should also make certain that, if they see something suspicious, or out of the ordinary, they report it to security immediately – and let security ferret out the significant from the insignificant.
- Every venue, cost permitting, should utilize magnetometers (metal detectors) at all entrances, including the artist’s. If a magnetometer is cost prohibitive for very small venues, security should conduct pat down searches of everyone, and not waste so much time searching women’s purses.
- Every venue, large and small, should have a viable, well thought out evacuation plan and plan of action, with a protocol for when to call in the authorities and who is to make the call.
Although some tragedies are not preventable, the early detection of the warning signs by vigilant employees and patrons, coupled with a viable evacuation/mitigation plan, can save lives.