Summer festival season is underway, and with it come discussions of keeping the grounds secure and the artists and fans safe. The 2017 mass attack at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival in Las Vegas has stimulated new discussions among concert promoters, event producers, and the venues that wish to bring in popular and cutting-edge talent for shows. Performing artists who may have previously assumed that security at the places where they will play is fully handled by the site and the related security professionals who work there, will certainly have many questions about their safety now.
All forthcoming large-event security responses and related solutions should be based on a concept that has now shifted from “That probably won’t happen” to “What do we all need to do, working cooperatively, to protect the fans and the artists in this venue, to prevent something like this from ever happening again?”
Typical concert, sports arena, or stadium events have always been staffed by a combination of full-time security professionals (who either work for the venue or for the artists’ inner circle or production company), assigned law enforcement officers, and part-time ushers, food vendors, maintenance staff, and the common sight of the “yellow (or red) jackets,” security officers who often provide interior perimeter protection to keep people off the stages or playing fields. These windbreaker-wearing security officers are often called on to break up fights in the crowd, kick out unruly guests, or turn over drunks or other more serious problem-makers to the on-site police. That three-layer security model—event professionals, local police, part-time security officers typically provided by local or national contractor—has been largely effective for decades. Because it has usually worked well, the model has not changed. The events in Las Vegas will certainly call that model into question, and new considerations may arise like the following:
- Might we see a standing request for SWAT officers, sniper, and counter-sniper teams, and more police patrol officers carrying long rifles at these types of open-air events where there are multiple-viewing locations all around the stage?
- Will we now see police officers teaming with highly experienced venue security officers (who should know the venue inside and out) on rooftop lookout details, with binoculars, spotting scopes, and radios?
- Will off-duty police now be allowed to bring their concealed firearms into sports and entertainment venues again, as they did decades ago? Disneyland, Disneyworld, Universal Studios, Six Flags, and all major national sports leagues typically prohibit fully-qualified but off-duty and out-of-uniform police officers from bringing their concealed firearms into their sites. Will this policy change to provide an additional armed and trained response?
- Will we see more texting reminders to the crowd at intervals to contact police or security using specific text numbers or venue phone numbers?
- Will venues or producers start printing security reminders on the backs of event ticket stubs and ask people to review them upon receipt/e-printing of their tickets?
We may need more perimeter security, before and during the event, but especially after it. It may be more useful to split the shifts of police and security officers, so that some of them come on duty right before the event starts and some come on duty right before it ends. The idea here is that it’s common for police and security officers wrapping up their work at a concert, game, or other event to start to wind down their vigilance behaviors as their shifts end. It’s human nature for them to pay a lot of attention at the start of their shift and less as it comes to an end. If we believe that homegrown attackers or overseas terrorists may deploy their attacks at the exits to a venue (as happened in the Ariana Grande concert bombing in the UK last May) or at the conclusion of an event (as with the Las Vegas attack), we need our police and security personnel to have fresh eyes and ears throughout the duration of the event and beyond, until the majority of the crowds have completely left the site.