Risk-based Approach to Festivals and Fairs – Part 2

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By Travis Strawbridge, Ty L. Richmond
Originally appeared in November/December 2022 Security Today Magazine

Mitigating Future Tragedies

On Nov. 5 2021, at an Astroworld Festival near Houston, a concert turned into a tragedy when the crowd surged, causing multiple fatalities and serious injuries. The state of Texas formed the Texas Task Force on Concert Safety.

“Live music is a source of joy, entertainment and community for so many Texans—and the last thing concertgoers should have to worry about is their safety and security,” said Gov. Greg Abbott. “From crowd control strategies and security measures to addressing controlled substances, this task force will develop meaningful solutions that will keep Texans safe while maximizing the joy of live music events.”

The Task Force issued a report with recommendations on unified on-site command and control, permitting, training, planning with risk assessment and centralized resources. Gov. Abbott’s report highlights the importance of a risk-based approach to event security; highlighting every critical component necessary to reduce overall risk exposure.

Continual Training is Critical

Security and event staff require comprehensive training for each specific event. “A series of preshow steps, including tabletop exercises, site walkthrough drills, and security briefings before and after shifts, establishment of a clear and well-disseminated communication tree, and agreed-upon show-stop triggers and responses are some of the elements of successful event protocol,” reports the Texas Task Force on Concert Safety.

Detailed, comprehensive training is vitally important for event security staff. Training methods include classroom training, field training, hands-on simulation training, tabletop exercises, workshops, E-learning, certification courses, Guard Card courses and annual refresher classes.

Crowd Control, Emergency Evacuation Training

Event security professionals do not need a Ph.D. in psychology but they do need a thorough understanding of ‘crowd psychology.’ What is crowd psychology? It is the collective psychological mindset of a large group of generally like-minded individuals in the same general vicinity of each other.
In an organized crowd environment, many of the social barriers that exist in conventional behavior have decreased, or ignored. This stems largely from a person’s identity being, in part, in congruence with the crowd as a whole. For example, people who attend a concert have a shared and common interest with every other person in that crowd with the general enjoyment of the music/artist.

Equipping security personnel with the knowledge, awareness and basic tactics to safely engage, monitor and move large crowds of people in a safe and effective manner is of critical importance. This specific training prepares event security staff to recognize different types of crowds and crowd behaviors, understand basic psychological phenomena, which may arise within individuals and crowds. Training also prepares security staff how to move large crowds in safe and efficient manners, understanding how to properly manage and direct crowds in emergency situations, how to safely evacuate a facility and how that venue layout may affect and alter evacuation procedures.

Click here to view Part 3 of our Risk-based Approach to Festivals and Fairs.