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3 Experts, 3 Perspectives on Security for Music Festivals

“Eventline” interviews three security experts for their insights on keeping music festivals safe for attendees.

As “Eventline” noted earlier this week, the horrific attack on attendees at a Las Vegas country music festival 11 days ago has the event industry scrambling to rethink how it keeps guests safe.

Music festivals have become a burgeoning segment of the event business. But the method used by the Vegas sniper—who killed 58 and injured some 500 by shooting from the 32nd floor of a nearby hotel—has compelled security experts to add one more potential threat to their list of concerns.

Here, “Eventline” interviews three security experts for their insights on keeping music festivals safe for attendees:

Take a Good Plan and Make it Better

Bob Estrin, founder, B.E. Creative, Orange, Calif.

Following the incident at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas, we all have been wondering can it be prevented. A lone wolf attacking from a sniper’s perch outside of the events grounds is not a scenario that has been considered by most event security professionals. The only group that I have encountered that thinks about it is Secret Service presidential protection service.

What the festival planner can do:

·        Work with local law enforcement during planning to identify potential positions outside of the festival perimeter.

·        Train staff in situational awareness.

·        “See something, say something.” If something seems odd, employees, volunteers, performers and attendees all need to see signage telling them whom to contact.

·        Add additional security that is looking outward, not inward.

·        Add professional safety management to staff during planning

Most festivals already have good safety and security plans in place. Thinking outside the box needs to be done. Bring in someone from outside your area to look at things from a different viewpoint. Don’t throw out last year’s plan if it worked just adjust for new contingencies.

Remember: Risk management is the planner’s job. Safety is everyone’s job.

Music Festival Planners: Think ‘Cover’ and ‘Conceal’

Michael A. Hodge, CPP, J.D., president of security firm Michael A. Hodge and Associates; he is retired from the U.S. Secret Service.

Sadly, the horrific mass shootings at the Las Vegas music festival causes concern, especially for event planners working such events.

And a major question for planners are what security strategies are available to address potential harm not on the site of the event, but away from the event.

Foremost, as Las Vegas has shown, off-site activity can greatly impact an event at a particular location, despite all the planning and preparation for that venue.

To address these possibilities, two very important strategies used in the security industry are worth discussing. They are they are “cover and concealment.”

The term “cover” is the use of hardened or physical materials to protect from physical harm. They include walls, posts and even vehicles. These items are used to cover all the lines of sight into an event. Many times, depending on terrain and elevation, they are used around the circumference of an event and serve quite adequately.

Recently, I noticed a great example of this strategy on a Caribbean island. The music event was held in a large open parking lot. Planners stacked old trucking containers two-high around the event, leaving openings for access-control purposes. This design protected the event from anyone seeing into the event. Remember: If someone can see in, they can choose a target. If they can’t see, it’s much more difficult to cause harm as intended.

The second term I offer is that of “concealment.” Concealment prevents, minimizes or challenges one’s sight into the event. Many times, tents, billboards, fencing or outward-faced lighting serves the purpose of concealment.

Concealment doesn’t provide the physical protection as a cover measure, but it does help in the overall scheme of things to protect the event. Also, the use of concealment measures is typically less expensive than implementing cover measures.

Therefore, in the planning of your next event, make sure your security survey include observation outward. Paying close attention to the lines of sight into your event from distant structures, and use the strategies of “cover and concealment” for a safe and successful event!

Michael Hodge on security for big public events:

Facing Reality: What Festival Planners Can and Cannot Do

Linda M. Robson, Ph.D., is an associate professor at Endicott College in Beverly, Ma. She is the author of the Robson Risk Management Model.

The shootings were another in a long string of horrific incidents that are infecting our world.

That being said, it upsets me that there is a focus on what the organizers "should" have done, and on how to make outdoor events "safer." It is such a disservice, as what happened in Las Vegas was such a random act by a crazy person, that I don't feel there was any way for it to be predicted.

It is absurd to expect event professionals to consider someone in a hotel room would do this. Based on the fast response, it is my belief they did everything that was reasonable to ensure the safety of the attendees. These low probability/high consequence acts will unfortunately happen and, unfortunately, there is little we can do to predict and/or stop them.

What we can do is focus on creating plans to evacuate an area and to secure/lockdown an area. (I personally dislike the term "lockdown”; I think it has the potential to evoke feelings of fear and panic.) These are the two responses that we would face in these types of situations, but also in less deadly situations as well.

Evacuation plans are common in venues, so the first step is to ask if they exist. In addition, police agencies and fire departments have both evacuation and secure plans--we need to communicate better with these experts.

If the plans do not exist, then we need to create them based on the individual characteristics of the event.

Dr. Robson's Risk Management Module:

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