Absent holding the Las Vegas “Route 91Harvest” country music festival in a different venue, there is likely nothing event planners could have done to prevent the horrific mass shooting that killed 58 and injured more than 500 last month. Of course, such thoughts of venue change would usually only arise through hindsight.
The Oct. 1 attack comes on the relative recent heels of other major attacks—Ariana Grande concert bombing, Boston Marathon Bombing, Bataclan Theatre (Paris) shooting/suicide-bombing—targeting large crowds at entertainment events. Such terrorist attacks had already pushed the issue of event security to center stage in event planning worldwide, but now event planners and event safety specialists might need to further up their strategizing.
The question we must ask though, before moving ahead is: Where does the boundary of responsibility lie between concert promoters and the local police department? Is it the entrance of the venue or is it an integrated process where the promoter and local enforcement collaborate on external security measures as well?
Event Security Planning in the Good Old Days
Prior to recent terrorist-style targeted attacks, event security and safety considerations primarily focused on threats that did not—if at all—present such a potentially deadly risk to event participants. A short list of priority concerns, absent terrorism/mass shooters, would fall under the categories of weather, alcohol, medical emergencies, and petty disturbances, some of which can be interrelated. Broken down further, and prioritized to some degree according to type of event and demographics of attendees, event security/safety planning would usually focus on:
- gate crashing
- alcohol-induced mayhem
- drug overdoses
- heat stroke
- heart attacks
- stage rushing
- storms (potential for wind, rain, lightening damage/injury)
Worldwide, security measures targeting bombers and shooters is widely inconsistent and measures taken by event promoters and venues varies widely. Big name events, such as the Super Bowl, Olympics and other major sporting events have long been relying on walk-through metal detectors, bomb-sniffing dogs, restrictions on—or searches of—what people can bring into such events, and other security measures. Likewise, the numbers of security personnel, from private guards to government security and law enforcement, at such events has risen dramatically.
Smaller venues and events in the U.S. have been increasing their pre-screening security in the past few years, with hand-held metal detectors now common and the use of walk-through metal detectors increasing rapidly. Event promoter Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) is installing walk-through metal detectors in all of its 100 or so concert and sports venues worldwide. In an interview last year, Brent Fedrizzi, AEG Live Rocky Mountains co-president and COO, said he believes that the use of metal detectors will soon become a mandate for all U.S. sports and music venues.
Asian Countries Stepping Up Security, Too
In the wake of rising terrorism, Asian countries have also been stepping up event security in recent years.
Singapore this year enacted a new law requiring that event promoters provide 28 days notice to law enforcement officers of events and security planning for any event expected to attract more than 5,000 attendees. Based on the expected crowd size, and type of event, police can opt to declare the event as a “Special Event,” requiring more robust security measures such as bag checks, full body scans, extra policing, barricades, and more. If police determine that the venue “cannot be secured,” the location may have to be changed or the event will be postponed or cancelled. The measure is expected to affect about 200 annual events in the city, and was designed to address the challenges of worldwide terrorism, without stifling the city’s cultural
vibrancy or discouraging people from attending events.
While China and Hong Kong have long proven to be relatively safe venues for concerts and other events, they have also stepped up security measures in response to terrorism. Following the Ariana Grande concert bombing, Hong Kong’s AsiaWorld-Expo Convention and Exhibition Centre announced that it was stepping up security for all future concerts. Along with walkthrough metal detector screening, venue officials said that it will require concert attendees to wear security strap tracking devices and was considering enhanced use of bomb sniffing dogs. Without naming specifics, the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila also announced enhanced security measures going forward; however, a spokesperson for the arena noted that their security was always stepped up for big concert crowds.
Shooting Highlights Problem With Securing Outdoor Venues
Enhanced security undoubtedly reduces risk, but loopholes will always remain and outdoor venues are susceptible to attacks from beyond a venue’s security perimeter, as was made clear by the Las Vegas festival shooting. And it’s not only a crazed gunman shooting from afar that event security need to be concerned with—aerial attacks have always been a distinct threat, whether by private aircraft, or, these days, a simple drone. Fortunately, such airborne threats have only played out in the movies, and those of you old enough will know that I’m referring to the 1977 movie “Black Sunday,” in which terrorists attempt to crash a bomb-laden Goodyear Blimp into the Superbowl.
But what of a drone? Well, their small size likely limits their ability to inflict mass casualties at any scale. However, drones are likely going to play an increasingly bigger role in overall event security, especially for those events taking place in outdoor venues. Drones would seem to be A perfect tool for keeping tabs on crowds, and governments around the world are struggling to develop drone usage regulations, which often means finding a balance between personal privacy and public safety. To date, drone usage at outdoor events seems to be more commercially related than as a security measure, but we expect that to change as government rule-making catches up to the technology.
The issue of security at concerts, festivals and similar events will undoubtedly remain highly important going forward, and Pinnacle Live Concepts will continue to examine it in future blogs.