For Event Safety Alliance, Education And Information Is Key To Avoiding Another Astroworld

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– RIP:
Candles are placed at a memorial outside of the canceled Astroworld festival at NRG Park on November 7, 2021 in Houston, Texas.

With eight people dead and hundreds injured as a result of a crowd surge at Travis Scott’s Astroworld festival at NRG Stadium in Houston Nov. 5, eyes turned toward security and crowd management measures that failed, and what steps could have been taken to prevent the tragedy.

For the Event Safety Alliance president and founder Jim Digby, it was a painful reminder of the importance of information sharing and education about safety standards and how to implement and tailor them to each individual event as the knowledge base grows.
Any time tens of thousands of people converge on an event, turning a festival site into the equivalent of a small city, there is always potential for problems. The question is how much risk can be mitigated in order to make mass gatherings as safe as possible. 
“They all have risk, without question,” Digby tells Pollstar. “And our job as event professionals is to have the skills to know how to evaluate the risk to each event specifically and, in that evaluation, determine what are the best measures to prevent bad outcomes of any type.”
He stresses that each crowd, each artist, each concert promoter is different and a one-size-fits-all approach to crowd management isn’t an effective strategy to ensure guest safety as much as possible. 
“What’s your audience? Is it a kid show? Is it a Disney show? Is it an orchestra? Is it a high energy rock band or high energy rap? Each of those has a different audience profile and has a different safety profile, a different risk profile,” Digby says. “I keep trying to remind everybody that as an industry, if you take the number of shows we’re doing every day across the planet and the number of times we have one of these bad outcomes, we do fairly well.” 
Digby is not interested in speculating about what went wrong Nov. 5 — but something did, and eight souls are no longer in this world because of it. Investigators will investigate, courts will hear lawsuits, and festivals will continue. ESA’s job is not to point fingers, but to gather, analyze and interpret information about everything from crowd behavior to barrier construction material and spacing for guests on an event floor, among other things. 
Jim Digby
– Jim Digby,
president and founder of the Event Safety Alliance
ESA Vice President Steve Adelman says it’s important not only to ask questions, but ask the right ones — which requires at least some level professional knowledge and expertise. 
“Because we have seen too many heartbreaking incidents like this before, it is tempting to rush to judgment about the causes of this one,” Adelman writes. “Let’s do better than that. Let’s ask the right questions first, then see what the facts reveal.”
Addressing factors like security staffing, crowd management training, response time, barricades, and artist and other incitement, Adelman points to American National Standards Institute document ES1.9-2020, the most recent publication of crowd management standards, drafted and edited, and continually reviewed and updated by ESA, the International Association of Venue Managers and other professionals. 
A number of questions being asked of the Astroworld atmosphere leading to the report crowd surge need to be asked and answered, and all of which are addressed by ESI1.9 2020, he says.
Adelman asks: “How many security people were near the stage where thAdelman asks: “How many security people were near the stage where the occupant load apparently rose too high? What did the people closest to the incident understand about crowd dynamics, and what were they prepared to do to keep guests safe? How long after the first indication of trouble did it take until help arrived? What was the barricade configuration at the front of the stage? Did anyone on stage do or say anything to increase the likelihood of a crowd crush? If there was a “stampede,” as some early news reports have put it, what set it off?
Those questions will be sorted out as investigators continue their work of deconstructing just what happened that resulted in the deaths of at least eight young people, ranging in ages from 14 to 27, out to celebrate their favorite artist with 50,000 like-minded fans. 

“Our job is to analyze the things that went wrong, study what the chain of causation was, not for the legal needs, but so that we can then coalesce that information and give it back to the industry for free to learn from and try to continue to thump people over the head. It’ about education, education, education. So that’s where we are, heartbroken over yet another loss. We’re especially heartbroken that it comes at a time where our industry really can’t take any more losses. And we’re going to take all the information we can get from the professionals, and we’re going to put it into some sort of education so that we don’t make the mistake again.”