Astroworld Event Operations Plan Lacked Specific Protocols For Crowd Surge; Medics Hampered By Lack Of Radios

Astroworld site
Mark Mulligan/Houston Chronicle via AP

The Astroworld main stage where Travis Scott was performing Friday evening where a surging crowd killed eight people, sits in a parking lot at NRG Center on Monday, Nov. 8, 2021, in Houston.
An event operations plan submitted by Texas-based promoter Scoremore Shows to Houston police and fire officials for last weekend’s Astroworld festival at NRG Stadium grounds did not specify protocols in the case of a crowd surge, such as the one that occurred Nov. 5 during headliner Travis Scott’s set in which eight people died and hundreds more were injured.
In addition, USA Today reports exclusively that communications between first responders and the medical team provided by ParaDocs Worldwide were hampered by a lack of two-way radios  the medical team allegedly was equipped with only cellphones, and first responders given lists of cellphone numbers in case of medical emergencies.
ParaDocs Worldwide also reportedly submitted a medical plan to Houston officials. 
The redacted, 56-page Scoremore Shows event operations plan obtained by Pollstar sheds little light on what went wrong and while fingers are being pointed it is worth noting that any security or medical lapses that may have occurred remain under investigation by Houston officials and all parties, including Scoremore and Live Nation, which produced the Astroworld festival, have pledged full cooperation.
The concert area in Houston where a crush of fans had pressed forward during Scott’s performance remains largely in place as authorities continue a criminal investigation. More than 20 lawsuits have already been filed, accusing organizers of failing to take simple crowd-control steps or staff properly.
Houston police, along with the fire department, reportedly played a key role in safety measures at the sold-out show that drew 50,000 people. The union head of the Houston Fire Department defended its role Tuesday, saying firefighters did not have a presence inside the festival and were not given radios to communicate directly with organizers. 
Hundreds of people were treated for injuries onsite and at least 13 were hospitalized. Fans who were injured included a 9-year-old boy who attended the festival with his father but became separated as the crowd became dangerously packed, according to family members.
The event operations plan (EOP) included protocols for dangerous scenarios including an active shooter, bomb or terrorist threats and severe weather. But it did not include information on what to do in the event of a crowd surge.
“In any situation where large groups of people are gathering, there is the potential for a civil disturbance/riot that can present a grave risk to the safety and security of employees and guests,” the plan said. “The key in properly dealing with this type of scenario is proper management of the crowd from the minute the doors open. Crowd management techniques will be employed to identify potentially dangerous crowd behavior in its early stages in an effort to prevent a civil disturbance/riot.”
Experts say crowd surge deaths happen because people are packed into a space so tightly that they are being squeezed and can’t get oxygen. It’s not usually because they’re being trampled.

The plan also detailed protocols in the case that traumatic injury resulting in death occurred at the festival, noting that Event Control should be notified of a suspected deceased victim using the term “Smurf” and should “never use the term ‘dead’ or ‘deceased’ over the radio. Staff were instructed to request a supervisor and “Event Control will notify the Event Director of Security and/or the Security AOD via direct messaging or cell phone communication.” The protocols went on to say that staff should “divert all traffic (vehicle and/or pedestrian) away from the scene” and “request a partial evacuation of the area from Event Control.”

The EOP does include instructions for shutting off power to the stage in case of emergency, but the names and titles of those with authority to make the order are redacted. However, the point at which such a decision is made appears to be discretionary.
“The following individuals have the authority to shunt show power in order to facilitate an evacuation. [redacted] On their order, event production personnel will immediately shunt show power stopping the show. The order to shunt show power may be made either in person or via the radio. Should an incident evolve to the point of activation of the ICP, the incident commander has the authority, either personally or via a designee, to order show power shunt if the lives of employees and guests are in immediate danger.”

Authorities have said part of their investigation will include reviewing whether the concert promoter and others behind the festival adhered to the plans submitted. 
Marty Lancton, president of the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association, told The Associated Press that firefighters asked festival organizers for a radio so they could be in direct contact with each other. Lancton said firefighters were given a list of cellphone numbers to call during an emergency.
“We don’t use cellphones for emergencies. We use radios. We need direct contact because as situations unfold, seconds matter,” Lancton said.
He said a group of four firefighters were stationed inside a mobile command van in a nearby parking lot starting at 7 a.m. on Friday. Without direct communication with the festival organizers, the firefighters inside the van monitored six different radio frequencies to keep tabs on what was going on, he said.
Organizers had contracted with New York-based ParaDocs to handle all medical services at the festival. A 22-page plan the company submitted to local officials ahead of the festival said it estimated 70,000 attendees — more than the actual number of concertgoers — and planned for a daily staff of more than 80 emergency medics, doctors, registered nurses and supervisors. 
ParaDocs said in a Nov. 9 statement the company had been “prepared for the size of the venue and the expected audience with a trained team of medics and EMT” and that it was cooperating with investigators. 
Houston police and fire department investigators have said they are reviewing surveillance video provided by concert promoter Live Nation, as well as dozens of clips from people at the show that were widely shared on social media. 
Scott, who founded the Astroworld festival, said he would cover funeral costs for the victims. The dead ranged in age from 14 to 27 and came from Texas, Illinois and Washington state, according to Harris County authorities. They included high schoolers, an aspiring Border Patrol agent and a computer science student. 
Astroworld’s event operations and emergency medical response protocols filed with Harris County and obtained by the AP states “the potential for multiple alcohol/drug related incidents, possible evacuation needs, and the ever-present threat of a mass casualty situation are identified as key concerns.”