Astroworld investigation: ‘This is about learning’
Crowded space expert Professor Chris Kemp has spoken to IQ about concert safety following the deadly crowd surge at Travis Scott’s Astroworld Festival in Houston, Texas.
Police have opened a criminal investigation after at least eight people, aged between 14-27, died and hundreds others were injured at the 50,000-capacity event at NRG Park on Friday (5 November). Multiple lawsuits have already been filed by Astroworld attendees.
Inquiries are expected to take “weeks if not months” to complete, and Kemp, of Mind Over Matter Consultancy, hopes the findings will go towards preventing similar tragedies in the future.
“These reports sometimes contain less than is actually needed because they tend to focus on blame, rather than support in delivery and development,” he tells IQ. “But what needs to be looked at is both the distal and proximate causations – those elements are so important for the industry to learn from – because this is about learning.”
He adds: “There are a lot of things going on at an event of that size and you have to make sure you’re mitigating risks as much as you possibly can. But I can’t cast aspersions about anything that happened to that event, because I don’t know and we don’t know. All we’re getting is snippets from the press, newspapers, TV, and remember, people like sensationalising things. We need to know the underpinning facts. And as those come out, to learn from them and take that on board.”
Kemp explains the key areas likely to be scrutinised by the authorities.
“It’s most likely going to focus on the planning of the event, the management of the event, the artist’s behaviour, the crowd behaviour,” he says. “It will focus on a range of things with those as major blocks, but also the interoperability between all the services that were there.
“We haven’t yet really got a full view from anybody about what happened. We know what the main elements are, but the overall timeline hasn’t been released yet.”
It’s about three key elements: security, safety and service
Such concert tragedies are infrequent, but not unprecedented. Eleven people died in a crush at a gig by The Who at Riverfront Coliseum in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1979, while two people were killed at a Guns N’ Roses performance at the UK’s Monsters of Rock festival in 1988 and three people died at an AC/DC concert at The Salt Palace in Salt Lake City in 1991.
Since the turn of the century, nine people died at Pearl Jam’s 2000 headline show at Denmark’s Roskilde Festival and 21 people died and more than 650 were injured in a July 2010 crush in a tunnel that served as the sole entrance to the Love Parade festival in Duisburg, Germany.
“The occurrences themselves are fairly rare,” says Kemp. “But there are thousands of near misses. And it’s about three key elements: security, safety and service, which are things that you balance to make the event work.
“Planning, communication and management, of course, are absolutely essential in ensuring the event is fit for purpose before people come into it.”
Kemp also addressed reports that a concert-goer was going around injecting people with drugs at the Astroworld event.
“Although that was probably not a contributing factor to the disaster, I think it’s something that we need to keep our eye on because it’s been brought up from all sorts of different events, starting in UK nightclubs,” he says. “So it’s very difficult to get a handle on.”
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Security Solution Showdown: keeping events safe
Running a live event entails many security risks, be it keeping track of who exactly is attending or working at a venue; ensuring safety protocols are effectively implemented and staff suitably trained; managing crowds; or even dealing with lost property complaints.
Many safety aspects have been handled without any technological aid in the past, allowing for human error and often relying on guesswork or snap decision-making. In anticipation of their presentations at the Event Safety and Security Summit (E3S) on 8 October, IQ profiles some of the industry professionals who believe their solution is the next big thing…
Paul Foster, OnePlan
OnePlan is the world’s first centralised event-site-planning platform. It allows anyone to map, draw, plan and procure every aspect of their event site and operations.
The platform saves event planners time and money, generating consistent professional plans, reducing stress and, crucially, improving safety and security. OnePlan facilitates easy calculation of crowd density and evacuation rates by using intuitive space planning and measurement tools. These numbers can then be agreed upon and enforced.
A multiuser functionality lets event organisers share plans with security personnel and law enforcement at the click of a button, ensuring key safety and security stakeholders have full visibility of the event as plans develop.
This gives plenty of opportunity for identifying and minimising risks and threats as they emerge. Accurate real-time information about the event allows safety and security teams to plan and deliver their operations in the most effective way.
Interpol has recognised the value of a centralised event- planning system and is now using OnePlan to support immersive training for major global sporting events. With other law enforcement organisations showing a keen interest in the platform, and global events adopting the system, OnePlan is raising the bar for event safety and security.
OnePlan gives plenty of opportunity for identifying and minimising risks and threats as they emerge
Matthias Immel, Deep Impact
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is one of today’s biggest buzzwords. But the buzz is justified: AI will significantly change all areas of life – including the event and live music industry.
Deep Impact is passionate about AI and its possibilities. The company, based in the city of Winterthur, Switzerland, is developing state-of-the-art, AI-based applications. Its face-recognition solution is one of the most powerful worldwide.
Banks are using this software for running background checks on new customers, whereas stadiums and football clubs use it to identify troublemakers during a match.
Deep Impact has the ambition to cover several aspects of security around an event, starting with accreditation. Staff working at an event like a festival are a potential risk – as the temporary termination of Rock am Ring showed two years ago…
The software provides a solution by performing an automatic background check (based on open source intelligence and/or blacklists from state authorities) of all event staff, as well as a verification of the person at the accreditation centre to check it is in fact the individual on the list.
Deep Impact can also be used to identify troublemakers and to analyse social media communication in a defined geo-fence, for example, the area around a festival site or arena.
The software analyses the communication in this fence related to security-focused keywords. When one is used on various social media channels, the system creates a notification. It doesn’t matter which language the message is written in, it will be captured and instantly translated via AI algorithms.
In addition to mitigating security threats, this tool can also monitor communication around black market ticket sales near a certain venue or event location.
AI will significantly change all areas of life – including the event and live music industry
Edo Haan, Safesight
Netherlands-based Safesight is a software application that ensures employees, suppliers, partners, volunteers and other parties know and execute their responsibilities, checklists, safety plans and protocols.
When incidents do occur, Safesight helps an organisation to take predictable, efficient and safe actions to control the situation.
Safesight software originated from the work that the company’s owner, Edo Haan, enacted as safety officer at music festivals. As well as being used at events such as Mysteryland, Pukkelpop and Zwarte Cross, the software is also implemented at stadiums and convention centres, including Borussia Mönchengladbach’s Borussia-Park in Germany, and RAI Amsterdam and Rotterdam’s De Kuip in the Netherlands.
Using Safesight software, event organisers are able to optimally inform and instruct all those involved in an event. For example, they can assign tasks or disseminate information in accordance with safety protocols to specific employees at any given moment. This could be to the security team, technical production staff, stage management or the cleaning department.
Via a centralised dashboard, management has an accurate overview of the people that have – or have not – completed their tasks. If an individual, or a whole team, lags behind, this is visible in real time, and management can take action accordingly.
Finally, using a cloud-based logbook available via a browser or through the mobile app, all information is collected and, if necessary, quickly shared with the event stakeholders. This helps those in charge to have a complete overview of what is happening in and around the event. The logbook also acts as an important tool for collecting a valuable database for management.
Safesight software originated from the work that the company’s owner, Edo Haan, enacted as safety officer at music festivals
Ian Kerr & Jennifer McLean, Raven Controls & ID Resilience
Security consultancy ID Resilience and management system Raven Controls are the creations of former policeman Ian Kerr. Kerr’s experience in security stems primarily through his ten-year career with Police Scotland where he worked in emergencies and counterterrorism, planning, designing and delivering contingency exercises for major events, political conferences and tier-one counterterrorist activities.
Having found a passion in resilience, Kerr set-up resilience consultancy business ID Resilience in 2015. Specialising in testing, exercising and crisis management consultation, Kerr and his team have gone on to work with a large number of arenas, stadia, venues and major events across the UK and internationally.
Through the work of ID Resilience, weaknesses in current market solutions for recording and managing issues became evident, with most venues using traditional processes such as office-based systems or outdated handwritten logs. These methods are time consuming, prone to human error, and do not facilitate clear communication, which is essential when it comes to safety and security.
Raven Controls is an integrated real-time issue management system that provides unparalleled levels of situational awareness, ensuring the right information is available to the right people at the right time. Kerr and his team continue to work closely with industry leaders to provide venues and organisers with the protection and accountability they deserve. Raven has been used at the Ryder Cup 2018, European Championships 2018, the Scottish Event Campus and Celtic FC, among others.
Raven Controls ensures the right information is available to the right people at the right time
Rory Cole, NotLost
NotLost is a simple online tool that enables organisations to modernise their lost-and-found process.
Despite being the norm within many organisations, antiquated lost-property systems are time-consuming and frustrating for staff. Not only is a good (or bad!) lost-property experience memorable for customers but it also acts as an unwelcome distraction for the busy security staff who often deal with it.
Mountains of items, endless phone calls and long queues are an all-too-familiar sight for anybody managing lost property at live events. These issues are exacerbated by analogue systems and poor process.
In 2017, a group of event experts recognised this and set about creating a 21st century solution. The result is NotLost, an innovative cloud-based platform that enables organisations to manage their lost property with speed and ease.
Found items are registered in under ten seconds using image recognition software, customer enquiries are handled promptly using keywords and images to search across the platform, and a simple one-click lost/found comparison helps staff to quickly identify and return items.
The platform is proven to save organisations between 50 to 80% of time spent managing lost property, freeing up valuable staff capacity for other important tasks. NotLost also allows venues and live events to deliver an excellent customer experience in this often-overlooked area.
With the O2 Arena on board as NotLost’s first client, the team is now proud to be working with many of the UK’s leading organisations and venues, including the SSE Arena Wembley, AEG Presents and Broadwick Live.
Despite being the norm within many organisations, antiquated lost-property systems are time-consuming and frustrating for staff
Chris Kemp, Pascal Viot & Gerard Van Duykeren, The Safe Project
The Safe Project, an Erasmus+-funded initiative aiming to improve safety and security training across Europe, consists of two programmes.
The first is for those at, or aspiring to be at, management level in the event, security and crowded space industry, while the second is for operational purposes and focuses on the practical elements of security and crowd management.
The programmes have been created to provide both subject-specific knowledge and skills that relate directly to the workplace. Those teaching the programmes are practitioners that can provide experiential, as well as theoretical underpinning for those participating.
The programmes cover six major aspects of managerial delivery and provide a wide range of subject areas and skills. During each module the participants study theoretical concepts, engage in case studies, and work in groups on scenario-based learning to ensure that they absorb both skills and knowledge. Each module has an assessment, which takes place during the programme.
The project is practical, applicable and specifically designed to be used by trainers in classroom scenarios to teach event professionals about the event environment. It comprises: ‘learning in the round,’ which captures the fluid relationships and engagements between the different actors in the work-based learning process (participant, specialist, and facilitator) in both the design and delivery phases.
The course brings together the perspectives of these three key actors, and the best practice in organisational culture is captured and perceived in a manner that would not be possible by any one of these actors individually.
A work-based learner no longer reflects upon workplace issues and challenges from a single aspect, or even ‘in the main,’ but now in the round. In a fully realised work-based learning process, the learner is fully engaged in that learning process.
The Safe project is practical, applicable and specifically designed to be used to teach event professionals about the event environment
Andrew Tatrai, Dynamic Crowd Management
Andrew Tatrai has taken 35 years of practical experience in major event management and crowd security back to school, researching technological pathways to replicate the human decision-making process involved in crowd management.
It has long been accepted that crowd management expertise resides within the realm of professionals making subjective judgements on how and when to intervene to keep crowds safe. The human intuition that drives crowd management decisions is a form of pattern recognition, that is, the memory of good and bad experiences assist a crowd manager to avoid or encourage situations for the preferred outcomes.
Working in accordance with the work of Israeli-American psychologist Daniel Kahneman, Tatrai believes the need for machine learning and observation to enhance decisionmaking is clear. People have limitations in assessing risk, which far exceed mere lack of experience, bias and poor observation.
Combining feature recognition, machine learning, data science modelling and visualisation, it is now possible to measure the changing mood of the crowd on a massive scale.
When modelling large volumes of data, patterns emerge and predictability is possible. This is quicker and more accurate than even the best current human crowd managers, and importantly provides evidence of a change in measurement of crowd metrics. Testing and trials have shown the model is responsive to management intervention.
This research has resulted in the digital measurement of crowd density in actual persons per square metre, the measurement of the velocity of a moving crowd and the estimation of crowd mood by feature extraction and data visualisation. The net result is a product software programme that can provide better crowd metric measurements for control room, police assessment and decision support.
E3S takes place on 8 October at the Congress Centre, London. More information is available here.
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Case study: How to safely increase customer numbers and standing floor capacity
For the last three years, MOM Consultancy has been working with some of the largest venues in Europe on various projects including changing barrier configurations at events, testing plans at major stations, supporting new plan implementation at sporting and music events and facilitating the uplift of standing floor capacities. The latter of these has been a revelation for the company and helped MOM to understand the complex integration of safety and security needed in such projects.
In all projects, the customer has to be the focus. Realising the full benefit to the customer and also the primary key stakeholder needs to be met is a fine balance between customer care, safety, security and increased income. Many approaches to projects are based primarily on a profit motive whilst others are made putting the customer and the centre of development. The secondary type of approach enhances the whole experience and does not just focus on tangible quick wins. Two examples of clients who have put the customer at the very centre of their developments are the Echo Arena in Liverpool and the O2 Arena in London.
In this article we are going to focus on the O2 Arena as a case study and their three-year project to uplift the standing floor capacity whilst ensuring key benefits to the customer. To enhance the project MOM felt it pertinent to bring in a health and safety expert from ACT, Chris Hall, to provide expertise in an area where MOM does not work but is essential to understanding what is legal and practicably possible in relation to guidance, fire safety standards and other key precepts. Working alongside firstly Steve Gotkine, and then with Danielle Kennedy Clark, the seamless continuum was of paramount importance – it took three years from the start to the finish of this remarkable journey.
The project started with a series of familiarisation sessions to ensure that the team were au fait with the venue; this included visits to events, a review of plans, guidance used and health, safety and crowd management aspects, as well as interviews with a cross section of staff and a customer survey. By triangulating the plans with the surveys and observations, the team were able to put together a plan which tested the outcomes requested by the O2 management. The key aspect was spending time with the team watching how they prepared for events, their training protocols and the implementation of plans at the venue. Creating an understanding of how the venue worked, what made the audience and staff tick and what possible additions would support customer perceptions of care were all-important.
The delivery of the uplift in numbers utilised both a qualitative and quantitative approach, and one which would turn out to be a gradual testing and monitoring process from the initial numbers to the new density. Some may feel that a three-year testing period is a long time to finally implement the requested and agreed uplift, but due to the venue’s duty of care and ethical approach everything needed to be right to ensure the buy-in of every stakeholder involved.
The process was initiated by a debate: Firstly, a debate about the efficacy of increasing the number on the venue standing floor and how this would look given the shape and structure of the venue. The second debate was around the venue’s present structure and how this would cope with the obvious uplift and whether the existing structures were adequate to support such changes. Once this had been identified, preliminary meetings were held with the fire consultants to view the fire plan and what the envelope surrounding the plan provided. Deep and testing conversations were held and also secondary reviews held to test the envelope, which proved sound.
The key to all deliberations with a venue is openness and the will to succeed
The consultants then worked on the figures creating a series of options, each of which had a number of caveats. Each caveat was related to the idea that for each calculation the management team would have to consider changes to the venue to facilitate the numbers.
Chris Hall worked on the figures, while Chris Kemp worked on the psychosocial aspects of the staff and crowd and what their appetite was for change. How likely did they feel that an uplift in floor capacity was the right thing for the venue? The results of the conversations were positive and the interesting piece was the difference in the appetite for risk both among staff and also the audience. These reports were written up and presented back as part of the final report.
Delivering such reports and ensuring that they meet exacting standards is difficult, as the safety and security of all stakeholders must be the first concern. Any changes proposed by the team in conjunction with the venue management team have responsibility and accountability attached to them – so this is not a light touch, but rather a complex integration of qualitative and quantitative factors resulting in the possible reshaping of the venue or unforeseen changes which, of course, can have knock on effects.
The key to all deliberations with a venue is openness and the will to succeed, as in a carefully structured and trusting client/consultant relationship. This is based on respect and that each individual brings something special to the table that may result in a better than hoped for outcome, especially in the competitive arena environment.
The initial project took five months to complete and at the end of the process provided an outcome which could then be taken to the council’s planning team. This nerve-racking process can be very testing unless, like our combined team had done, answered every question that we knew that we would be asked in the presentation to the council. From this presentation there were few questions, and the joint delivery by MOM and the O2 went down well, showing a finely integrated strategy and operational delivery.
A number of recommendations were then made by the council which resulted in the O2 team having to take the results to the board and provide them with a specification and costing, which included a cost-benefit analysis. MOM also made a number of recommendations which were accepted by the council – these were all related to health and safety activities and the gradual increase in capacity until the final capacity was reached. A further recommendation was that the O2 worked on a case-by-case basis with the increase and not as a blanket for every event, taking into consideration holdback of tickets, artist and audience profiling, the A-Guide and the resultant templates for gigs and other salient information.
The process to reach this desired density was a long but necessary procedure
The management team’s understanding of their customer base is very deep and they can usually predict how an event will go and how the customer will act. This is key to the unified and positive outcomes of any event. However, the team is only as good as their weakest person and the O2 assiduously provide training for their teams at all levels to ensure that all members are working towards their true potential, thus creating a culture of safety across the organisation.
Following the work that the O2 carried out with MOM, the O2 team were confident that they were moving in the right direction and it was safe to embark and introduce their first change in the floor density for the arena. After they had completed a thorough risk assessment for the forthcoming shows, they introduced the first density change in October 2015. The standard floor density that the venue had worked with for a number of years was altered from a .4 to a .39 density. On average the venue operated a minimum of 15 shows at the .39 density before reducing the density further. Following each show the team, led by Danielle, monitored, debriefed and reviewed the standing floor footage of the event and obtained detailed feedback from the staff on the ground. They continued to risk assess each event before implementing any changes to the density. The desired safe density that Danielle and her team were working towards was .36.
The process to reach this desired density was a long but necessary procedure. This ensured that the team had considered and fully evaluated the risks and continued to work towards the desired outcome. Over the three-year process they continually liaised with their licensing authority on the progress that was being made. Danielle and her team are now coming towards the end of our their evaluations and working at the lower density levels, Due to this process, the standard floor numbers have increased on average by 10% for each event. However, what is very clear is that the time taken over the process and alterations made inside the venue have been supported by a strong health and safety underpinning to their approach.
Changes like this are not to taken lightly – but if venues have the patience to deliver without considering the financial benefits, but concentrate on whether such a development will be safe, is crucial in ensuring the resilience and longevity of such changes.
Industry calls for sharing of security burden at first E3S
Some of the biggest names in concert promotion, venue management and event security have called for closer collaboration between industry stakeholders, as event organisers look towards a future where audience expectations demand increasingly stringent – and expensive – security measures at live events.
The theme of the need for increased cooperation between promoters, venues and other event stakeholders ran throughout the inaugural Event Safety & Security Summit (E3S), which debuted in London last Tuesday.
Speaking on the final panel of the day, The Show Goes On… Moving forward together, Live Nation executive president of touring Phil Bowdery said there is a “huge expectation” from artists about the level of security at venues, with “most international acts bringing a bigger security detail. [They] are quite detailed on what they want and how they want it, which we haven’t really seen before”.
While Paléo Festival’s Pascal Viot said in the earlier Rings of Steel panel that he believes people are ready to pay an extra euro per ticket to cover the costs of security, Bowdery stressed he “doesn’t want the cost passed on to consumers”. However, he also said the current model – where venues bear the sole responsibility for those costs – is no longer realistic.
“We need to come up with a model that works,” he explained, “because it’s not a sole venue cost.”
Bowdery added that he believes most promoters would be willing to contribute, “but we need some time to make sure we’re prepared for it. We have certain hurdles to get over – artists would be concerned we’re just taking more money out of their pockets – so we have to make them aware of what we’re all doing [on the security front].”
John Sharkey said SMG Europe is focusing on a new increased security environment while getting people into their venues earlier, which both “flattens out the arrival pattern and has the benefit of guests spending more money inside the building instead of nearby bars”. This, he said, will “help fund some of what we’re doing [security-wise] over the longer term”.
“We need to come up with a model that works, because it’s not a sole venue cost”
One measure that shouldn’t cost the earth – albeit it one difficult to implement – is a universal set of security standards across the world’s major events venues. MOM Consulting’s Chris Kemp used the example of the NAA’s A-Guide, which allows bands to “come into the country to play knowing the venue should be set up the same way wherever they’re going”.
Kemp called for the creation of one unified document bringing together all the existing security and safety guides – while Sharkey suggested venues could have a star rating, like hotels, so touring artists would know what level of facilities to expect.
Other key topics of discussion included an industry wide lack of qualified security staff, with delegates from the UK, Belgium and Germany all reporting a shortage in their own countries, and the importance of increased security not coming at the expense of crowd and general event safety.
“This summer focused so much on security that I’m worried the safety aspect – crowd management, stopping drugs being brought on site and even weather planning– is going to fall away,” said Gentian Events’ Eric Stuart. “That focus on security has been a direct contributor to lots of unnecessary accidents at events this summer where people were hurt.”
Also on the agenda was the problem of queues – and whether a group of people confined in a small area outside an event present an easier target than the event itself. A security adviser for the British government warned that individual new security measures can “interfere with each other” and called for a “holistic view” that includes the entire property, including its perimeter. “If your security policy is causing queues outside the venue, you’ve got your screening process wrong,” he said.
The inaugural E3S, produced by ILMC in close collaboration with the European Arenas Association (EAA) and the UK’s National Arenas Association (NAA), took place at the Intercontinental London hotel at The O2 on 10 October.
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Measures of security
Terrorist attacks stooped to a new low with the bombing of the Manchester Arena in May, where it was known that large numbers of children would be attending a concert by Ariana Grande.
One of the most challenging aspects of the attack was the location of the explosion, which was focused to cause maximum carnage: at a major interface between pedestrians in transit at Victoria station and the arrival and departure of concertgoers. This juncture is also an egress point to the public car park in the basement of the arena. The early detonation of the device reduced the numbers killed and injured, but the message was loud and clear: any target is legitimate to the terrorist.
The venue and its environs encompass the essential principle of accessibility and fluidity, enabling the city to function in an effective and efficient manner. Creating checkpoints at all access/egress points would be counterproductive and create blockages and unmanageable congestion.
Venues are faced with a complex problem specific to the characteristics of modern cities. Accessibility and fluidity are structural components of contemporary urban planning. Arenas based on the model of the mediaeval fortress town, surrounded by ramparts with fixed entry points, are counterintuitive, as such meticulous controls may slow down or even block access.
Unfortunately, we seem to be reaching the limits of our security capabilities within the current measures and need to try to expand the envelope to stop us repeating the same mistakes. Terrorist attack methodologies will continue to evolve and we must evolve with them. It is important to accept our vulnerability, and not to delude ourselves on the effectiveness of our current systems.
We have to accept the fact that, in many cases, there is nothing that we can do – even if we were to multiply the controls – to contain the risk at all costs. The concept of absolute security is almost impossible to achieve, so we need to reduce the risk to as low as is reasonably practicable. What we must do is act now with the tools available to us by accepting the idea that these strategies are partially effective, thus seeking new strategies to keep ahead of attack methodologies.
Our current approaches are outdated, predictable and clearly inefficient, creating constraints that make situations unmanageable
At the same time, security policies must reinvent themselves by changing paradigms. The challenge we face today is how to raise the level of control while guaranteeing fluidity in public spaces. To put it another way and add a more political dimension, we must attempt to protect individuals whilst still maintaining their public freedom. We will not solve these complex problems with the simple solutions we implemented previously.
Multiplying the controls at the ingress points of events is a partial solution, symbolic of our ‘make do and mend’ attitude in the face of raised stakes. A single, fixed-control point creates queues in areas upstream of the event, which may create an obvious target rather than safeguarding the public. The issue here is to balance crowd management with counterterrorism measures to ensure that they are both applied in equal measure.
In the case of a terrorist attack, we have two options: firstly, to stop it in the build-up or during hostile reconnaissance periods. To do this, we must train venue operatives and security teams on how to spot different types of behaviour, understand what the baseline venue context is, and then get them to escalate if necessary. Secondly, we must ensure that venue operatives are fully cognisant with differing attack methodologies, and are vigilant and understand how to work with the police and other security services.
We must rethink our strategies; integrate infrastructure and planning into a control and crowd management approach; and implement remote, non-systematic control points at different locations in the enlarged perimeter, and at different times. Our current approaches are outdated, predictable and clearly inefficient, creating constraints that make situations unmanageable.
It will take time for new strategies to emerge but time is one thing that we lack, so speedy resolution to issues must be a priority to put us one step ahead of this ongoing threat.
Security under review after Manchester Arena bomb
As venue operators around the world begin to process the news about the horrific attack on music fans in Manchester, live event security experts are reporting high volumes of queries from an industry that will have its work cut out to reassure concertgoers in the days and weeks ahead.
With festival season due to kick off in just a couple of weeks, urgent reviews of security measures are happening among production crews around the UK, while National Arenas Association chairman Martin Ingham – like most others in the arenas sector – spent the morning in operational meetings with his staff.
“Each of our member venues has been liaising with their own local police force and their network of counter terror officers and I know of at least three arenas who have had briefings with police today,” said Ingham. As well as UK arenas, Many London theatres were also understood to have spent the morning reviewing security procedures.
BBC Radio One’s Big Weekend festival is due to take place in Hull from 27-28 May. A spokesperson for the festival told the NME, “The health and safety of everyone involved in Big Weekend is now our primary focus and we are carrying out a full assessment, with the police and our partners, of every aspect of the festival.”
“Each of our member venues has been liaising with their own local police force and their network of counter terror officers and I know of at least three arenas who have had briefings with police today”
Security expert Chris Kemp, of Mind Over Matter Consultancy, tells IQ that he had received calls from as far afield as New Zealand and emails from clients around the world in the immediate aftermath of the Manchester Arena bombing.
“We’ve just created a course with Network Rail on identifying behavioural characteristics and trying to stop perpetrators in their tracks. But the difficulty is that the modus operandi of these terrorists is changing and there is no way you can infiltrate where there are lone terrorists who don’t communicate with others and just decide to carry out the act.
“Another difficulty is that you are asking low-paid staff to engage people they might perceive as suspicious, but if you’re getting £7.50 an hour, are you really going to put your life on the line? So it has to be the police, or [Security Industry Authority] operatives who do this.”
Kemp believes that terrorists are targeting precisely the places and events where people least expect such atrocities to happen, while those behind such attacks are also getting more savvy about what to wear and how to behave to avoid arousing suspicion. “Unfortunately there has to be a limit on how far you go with things because the costs of extra layers of security can be astronomical. But we are continuously working to create more deterrents and we’re doing a lot more stuff with venues and venue associations to improve security measures,” he says.
“There has to be a limit on how far you go with things, because the costs of extra layers of security can be astronomical”
Iridium Security director Reg Walker observes that “there has clearly been some hostile reconnaissance done beforehand for this bombing.” Although early reports state that it was a lone bomber using homemade explosives, Walker speculates that he would have to have had a support structure and that police and security services are already working hard to identify the bomber and any potential collaborators. At press time, reports were already emerging about the arrest of a 23-year-old man in connection with the Manchester attack.
“There are a lot of lessons to be learned from this tragedy,” says Walker. “It appears that this individual waited outside and attempted to walk into the venue on egress before detonating the device with a hand switch. But the fact that he was in a sort of no-man’s land, in a concourse between the venue itself and the train station, is significant.
“Most venues already have security in depth and the cooperation between venue operators and the security services is very good, so that most venues have become hard places to attack – but at the same time this person targeted an area on the periphery.”
Walker warns that it is virtually impossible to make any venue completely secure. “Even somewhere like Buckingham Palace, with its state-of-the-art security, still has incursions,” he says. “But on the flip side, this is the first mainland bombing in the UK since 2005, so the number of incidents that have been prevented is significant.”
Advising venue operators on how to strengthen security measures, Walker concludes, “It’s vital that venues reach out to the National Counter Terrorism Security Office (NaCTSO) for advice on how to enhance or adapt their security. And it’s also imperative that venues carry out regular drills so that new staff can benefit from that training and everyone knows what to do if there is an attack.”
“It’s vital that venues reach out to the National Counter Terrorism Security Office (NaCTSO) for advice on how to enhance or adapt their security”
While a number of live music operations declined to comment in the immediate aftermath of the attack, one expert points out that what happens both in the short- and long-term will depend on the outcome of the UK government’s emergency Cobra meeting.
“The information that filters down through the SECOs (security coordinators) will determine the response of promoters and event organisers,” said the source. He added that the police and security services would determine what additional measures may be required for summer festivals and concerts in general, but this may not be communicated for a number of days. “Obviously, trying to get hold of counter terrorism experts in the police today isn’t possible, but they are very effective at sharing information with us, so we expect to be briefed in the next day or two.”
Paul Reed, general manager of the Association of Independent Festivals in the UK noted that security at music festivals, as well as venues, is continuously reviewed as the top priority of promoters is the safety of their audiences. He tells IQ that in recent years, there has been a vast increase in dialogue and intelligence sharing between police and festival organisers, while initiatives such as NaCTSO’s counter terrorism Argus exercises are also helping to strengthen security efforts.
“In the aftermath of this dreadful attack in Manchester, audiences attending festivals this season may understandably have some concerns”
“In the aftermath of this dreadful attack in Manchester, audiences attending festivals this season may understandably have some concerns,” says Reed. “I must emphasise the excellent security record of UK festivals. AIF members are experts in organising safe and secure events for between 800 and 60,000 people and a highly effective private security industry has built up around events in this country.
“In addition, organisers have a constant dialogue with law enforcement and other relevant agencies at a local, regional and national level and there is increasingly more intelligence sharing between these agencies and promoters through initiatives such as Operation Gothic and the Project Argus training events. Security measures at festivals are reviewed constantly and the top priority of promoters of festival and concerts is always the safety and security of audiences. If additional measures need to be introduced, we are confident that they will be.”
Learning from our mistakes
Over the last 25 years, the professionalisation of the security and crowd management industries has created a deeper knowledge with regard to the reduction of risk.
Confusing the size of the crowd with its safety management can be dangerous and companies are reassessing their venue and event needs and utilising more informative tools to meet growing safety requirements. To do this they are continuing to seek a more interdisciplinary approach in their quest to make crowded space safer.
Spurious authenticity, hearsay and unsubstantiated predictions are reducing and being replaced by carefully researched rationales that provide more confidence in the planning framework for these events. Demographics, profiling and regression statistics all have to be taken into consideration to ensure the validity of ingress and egress calculations, evacuation times and many other projections needed to instil confidence into those managing the event.
Some venues monitor “time to clear” at the end of an event to create empirical data to support crowd movements and flow rates and this helps to develop patterns of movement when planning for normal egress and evacuation. Although not an exact science it starts to build up a picture over time of how this would work. It is also clear that a safety concept is venue specific and cannot be transferred to another festival or venue due to its idiosyncratic nature. Having said this, some generic points are transferrable in some cases but the specific elements do not provide such an easy fit.
Genuine benefit only comes with a true understanding of the scientific/human interface and without this, most technological deliveries in this area are doomed to failure or where they seem to work can be disproved by elements outside science.
Sometimes it takes a defining moment to make you think differently or change your perspective on a subject. The recent atrocities in Paris where the inherent vulnerability of the crowd at events was brought into sharp relief was one of these defining moments. The focus on the execution of a defender of the public (a gendarme) in the Charlie Hebdo massacre should have been warning enough that more was to come. However, our vulnerability and the psychological damage that the Bataclan massacre had on those attending or associated with the attacks could not have been calculated.
“Genuine benefit only comes with a true understanding of the scientific/human interface, and, without this, most technological deliveries in this area are doomed to failure”
Discussing accountability, competence and other changes in festivals and events since the Love Parade incident have helped us to review the unknown unknowns bringing together those peripheral to event delivery but central in the decision-making process such as local councils and the licensing authorities with those delivering the event. More and more across Europe these two segments are integrated, creating a common approach to event management.
This is not a case of being better qualified but being fit for purpose or having complementary skill sets to those in other positions in the event dynamic. There is not one qualification in the world that can substitute for experience and learning on the job no matter how much I had you believe this in my former life.
Now, more complex approaches in the search for the underlying distal effects that cause events to go wrong are being practised. This has been brought about by a resurgence of behaviours at events which mirror practices at Hillsborough, Heysel and many other disasters where the root cause seems to reside in a failure in the planning and preparation stages coupled with ‘memory loss’ in relation to the causal elements of such disasters. Recent issues at major events in Europe and the US send a chill down the spine as they reflect the same behaviours seen at Roskilde and Heysel, only this time 15–30 years later. Planning for the worst and hoping for the best is a laudable strategy and it focuses on the mitigation of as much risk as possible reducing the possibility of issues and providing contingencies. But in all cases this means everyone involved stepping up to the plate and being accountable for their own areas in a collective approach to the event. Without this, it just doesn’t work.
People are trying to come to terms with the new threats, and the work continually taking place in organisations to ensure that this happens brings us closer to being ready for the next unknown unknown. However, it is not about thinking outside the box but about seeking the box that we don’t yet know exists, to ensure that by doing so we are ready for new threats. Before Paris, who really dreamed that such an attack would ever happen and so many people would be damaged? It wasn’t that we were not ready; it was that the style and brutality of the attack did not enter the psyche of the rational human mind.
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