Astroworld tragedy places event safety, responsibility in spotlight
The Houston Astroworld tragedy, a Travis Scott festival-style concert, was declared a “mass-casualty” event after 10 concertgoers died and hundreds were injured. Who bears responsibility for these tragedies is at the forefront of event safety debates.
According to Brian Avery, an event safety expert and lecturer at the University of Florida, the tragedy was the consequence of event organizers failing to adhere to industry expectations.
“The reality is the industry knew better before this happened, this was preventable,” Avery said. “We learned the event organizers are not following industry standards and practices.”
Data reveals that Live Nation’s second-quarter earnings in 2021 were up 677%, hinting that there is a strong recovery in the live-entertainment sector in the post-pandemic era. That means event organizers need to be more aware of how the pandemic has impacted large events for spectators.
“Attendees are more apprehensive than ever because of COVID-19, places of mass assembly need to be aware of that,” Avery explained. “We have seen an increase in crowd disruptions, fighting and crowd rushing at events.”
Avery said that event organizers need to be aware of the “additional stress that can exacerbate situations,” and organizers need to ensure that industry practices regarding event safety are being met.
“We know the problems and there are solutions to fix them,” Avery stated. Rules have been established for decades, rules which organizers and planners should be relying on.”
The rules have been well-established and documented. There are many resources in regards to these rules, including the National Fire Protection Association Life Safety Code 10, hundreds of peer-reviewed articles, event safety guides, research papers and the Federal Emergency Management. Agency has a special event guide.
These are resources that event organizers need to be utilizing to ensure safety and effectively control the crowds. And one of the major failures of Astroworld is the admission process.
“Events like this (general admission) are a misstep away from a catastrophe,” Avery stated.“The organizers and planners are either not qualified to put on events like this or they are intentionally failing to comply with readily available and well-documented standards and practices.”
Festival seating is typically first-come-first-served, which is a mistake according to Avery.
“Do away with festival seating, especially without the use of crowd control barriers. Grouping patrons into manageable sections as opposed to unrestricted access areas would be better than nothing,” Avery said.
It is security and law enforcement’s job to keep the crowd under control. Constantly monitoring the crowd’s behavior should be a priority for security. Avery added that the Houston police chief met with Travis Scott prior to the show.
“The police should take a more active role in monitoring and controlling crowd-related matters,” Avery said. “The industry knew better before this happened, this was preventable.”
Avery notes that nothing is absolutely safe, which is the risk concertgoers take when they attend an event. But events can be safer if the regulations and practices are followed and enforced.
By Aaron Heckmann and Alijah Simmons