Securing Outdoor Events

After the largest mass shooting in modern US history which claimed the lives of 59 people and injured over 520 others, concert and outdoor festival planners are going back to the drawing board when it comes to properly securing their events.

The nation’s deadliest mass shooter sat 32 stories above and nearly four hundred yards away for the Route 91 music festival in Las Vegas, but that was close enough to use his assortment of automatic and long-range rifles to rain bullets down upon an unsuspecting crowd.  In the aftermath of this horrific event, concert planners must totally rethink their safety and security plans as they incorporate this newest threat of death from above. 

Since the attacks of 9-11 first illuminated the vulnerability of U.S. soft targets, event planners and security experts have prepared for attacks from people in or around the event.  Contingency plans were developed for knife-wielding suspects, armed attackers infiltrating the crowd and even attacks by drivers who had loaded their vehicles with explosives in order to cause a mass casualty event.  Over the past decade public safety specialists have worked with safety and security manufacturers to develop new fencing and barricade systems, implemented vendor and employee identification systems to monitor access and utilized a host of surveillance devices to observe suspicious behavior and control the crowds. Until this week, they never looked up.

With the latest horrific and deadly attack in Las Vegas, security experts must now adjust their plans to include shooters firing into crowds from elevated positions above concerts, fairgrounds and festivals.  They must have preparations in place to mitigate the possibility of attacks from adjacent or nearby hotels, condominiums and office buildings and coordinate response plans with local authorities who can access these elevated positions and neutralize the threat. 

Planners must now also reconsider how they deploy temporary fencing once utilized as a protective barrier to limit and screen all persons entering the event.  In Las Vegas those 10’-12’ fences restricted escape routes and trapped individual in the shooter’s kill zone.  Security experts are now going to have to closely consider the event location and if there are enough permanent or portable structures at the site to provide cover or concealment from an attacker located in the crowd or stories above the venue.

Moving forward these perimeter protections must provide additional egress points staffed with security personnel who can direct citizens to safety.  Additionally, event organizers and public safety officials are going to have to address mass notification systems which can be implemented during a crisis to provide direction and guidance in evacuating the events in a safe but timely manner.  At concerts sound equipment is readily available but may have to be able to be controlled remotely from a safe position while at other events portable Public Address (PA) systems may have to be utilized.

Finally, concert goers and those attending outdoor festivals and events should be prepared to respond to a variety of emergencies that may arise. Individuals can practice situational awareness by locating multiple exit points close to where they are sitting or standing.  All citizens, regardless of any formal training can take a few moments after arriving at the venue to look around and locate protective areas where they can seek cover such as behind a concrete barrier or jersey wall or behind a brick building - anything which will stop bullets if an active shooter situation should occur. 

Event attendees can also seek out areas of concealment, places which will hide them from the shooter or help to keep them out of a shooters line of sight such as a tent, bush, table or set of speakers.  If individuals take just a few moments to become aware of their surroundings, designate a reunification area outside of the venue and discuss emergency plans with friend’s and family members, their chances for successfully surviving a mass shooting increase significantly.

As event organizers and law enforcement professionals we must acknowledge that these mass shooters and terrorists are constantly learning and evolving to perfect their deadly skills. We must also adapt and modify our safety and security procedures to include all possible attacks.  As citizens we must remain situationally aware at all times, have a response plan of our own and communicate it to our friends and loved ones so if we are ever involved in a mass shooting incident we can utilize our preparation and training to increase our chances for survival.

Preventing Terrorist Vehicle Attacks

Preventing Terrorist Vehicle Attacks

In light of the recent terrorist attacks that have occurred around the world, officials from Bourbon Street to the Gas Lamp District are re-thinking their proactive strategies as they realize that no longer is traffic control their main concern—today, protecting special events and popular tourist areas is about stopping terrorism and saving lives.

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Dangers of Domestic Violence Calls

For the second time in two week’s multiple officers were shot responding to a domestic dispute. Last week in Palm Springs, California as officers negotiated with a suspect to exit the residence he opened the door and began firing killing both officers. This week in Boston officers were responding to a “domestic incident” between two roommates when officers were confronted with a suspect with an assault rifle who shot and critically wounded both officers.

As noted in the latest National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund/ COPS Office report, Deadly Calls and Fatal Encounters domestic violence calls are some of the most dangerous calls for service even when multiple officers respond. Research shows that even when 3 or more officers respond to this type of call the consequences can be deadly. The report also points out the inherent dangers of a single officer responding to a domestic disturbance call. Standard practice for most law enforcement agencies is to have a least two officers initially respond to a domestic violence call for service. For officers who are responding from different jurisdictions it is imperative for them to wait for back-up before approaching the scene if at all possible.

As noted in the “Deadly Calls and Fatal Encounters” report more than 20 percent of the officers in that study were killed by rifles and in both the Palm Springs murders and Boston attack officers were shot with assault rifles. Given the increasing use of assault-style rifles against police, the report recommends that “officers should incorporate the use of patrol rifles, body armor with hard armor plates, and ballistic helmets, which can be deployed during high threat responses”.

Armed with our past information on domestic violence calls and with this latest research data domestic disturbance calls officers must understand that domestic violence calls should never treated as routine; officers must be situation aware at all times, especially with the increased number of rifle attacks and take appropriate measures to protect themselves from these types of potentially deadly assaults. For more information on officer safety resources visit the NLEOMF Destination Zero page.

If you'd like more information on law enforcement agency assessments and de-escalation training visit The Community Safety Institute for more information.

John Matthews is a highly decorated, thirty-year law enforcement veteran, analyst for both CNN and FOX News and the author of Mass Shootings: Six Steps for Survival, Police Perspective: Life on the Beat, School Safety 101 and the co-author of The Eyeball Killer, a first-hand account of his capture of Dallas’ only serial killer.

How safe are shopping malls?

As cooler temperatures spread across the United States our thoughts turn to fall and for US retailers the upcoming holiday season. But two deadly attacks in six days and the shooting today in Houston have many wondering just how safe are shopping malls?

On September 17th Dahir Ahmed Adan stabbed 10 shoppers at the Crossroads Center in St Cloud, Minnesota. Adan was armed with a knife and injured 20 before being killed by an off duty police officer. Less than a week later an armed gunman killed 5 and injured one other in a shopping mall in Burlington, Washington 35 miles north of Seattle. Three days later 9 people were shot at a Southwest Houston shopping center before police shot and killed the alleged gunman.

The attack on innocent shoppers in Washington is the worst mass shooting at a mall area since the 2007 attack at the Westroads Mall in Omaha, Nebraska which killed 8 and wounded 5. The worst shopping mall mass shooting in the world occurred in September 2013 in Nairobi, Kenya when 67 people died and over 175 were injured.

Shopping malls have long been recognized as soft targets for both terrorists and others wanting to make a statement based on body count. Large crowds of unsuspecting victims, minimal security and numerous access points for escape combine to form a very vulnerable target area for those determined to wreak havoc on innocent civilians.

So what should you do if you find yourself in the unimaginable situation of a mass shooting at a shopping mall? ESCAPE. Grab your loved ones and exit away from the shooter as quickly as possible and stay away. If you are trapped in an area or pinned down by gunfire seek cover, anything that will protect you from bullets. If cover such as a concrete bench, large table or vending machine is not available then conceal yourself and family behind anything which will keep you out of the shooters vision. If he can’t see you it is unlikely he can shoot you. Stay down, making as small of a target as possible and continue to assess your situation looking for opportunities to safely exit the location. If you have an opportunity remember to run from cover to cover or concealment to concealment making yourself as small of a target as possible by crawling or running low to the ground. Remember, unless you are a trained law enforcement officer engage the shooter only as a last resort!

Shopping malls are traditionally safe havens visited by millions of people each year but as you are out shopping remember to stay alert to your surroundings, learn the ESCAPE Model and be prepared whenever you and your family are in a public place.


John Matthews is a highly decorated, thirty-year law enforcement veteran, analyst for both CNN and FOX News and the author of Mass Shootings: Six Steps for SurvivalPolice Perspective: Life on the BeatSchool Safety 101 and the co-author of The Eyeball Killer,a first-hand account of his capture of Dallas’ only serial killer.

Why Munich shooting is different

As horrific as some of the recent mass shootings have been in the United States recently maybe the most terrifying of all is the one that occurred in Munich on Friday, July 22, 2016.  Although the carnage and body count were awful it was the planning and preparation that went into the attack that made it so horrendous.  German investigators have confirmed that the shooter was enamored with school shootings and had studied the tactics of the 2011 Norwegian shooter who killed 77 and wounded over 100 others. 

An even more frightening aspect of this latest international mass shooting is the fact that prior to the murders the assassin intentionally lured potential victims into his killing zone by offering free food at the nearby McDonald’s.  In a post on Facebook the shooter offered the edible enticements in order to draw people into his kill zone and increase his body count.  This proactive tactic of luring victims in and killing them is unprecedented in mass shootings and hopefully not a pre-cursor of things to come.