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.