The Texas Task Force on Concert Safety was created in November after the Astroworld Festival in Houston left 10 people dead and over 300 injured when a crowd surge crushed concert goers. It’s estimated 50,000 people attended the event at NRG Park Stadium to watch rapper Travis Scott perform.
Additionally, just this month, one person was killed and several others were hurt after a shooting at an outdoor concert in southeast Dallas.
The task force is made up of safety experts, law enforcement, firefighters, state agencies as well as music industry leaders who looked at “ways to enhance security at live music events in Texas,” according to Abbott’s office. Within their report, the group reviewed the events at Astroworld and offered suggestions for holding safer events.
Task force points to concert safety needs
For example, the task force recommended a “centralized on-site command and control group” to oversee the event and determine “clearly outlined triggers” for when and how to halt or cancel a show if safety is threatened. The triggers should be outlined in event permit applications, the report read, and agreed upon by the on-site control and command group ahead of time.
By mid-concert at Astroworld, the task force wrote, while on-site medical staff was dealing with a number of injuries, the Houston Fire Department “self-initiated a response,” which led to the department declaring the show a “mass-casualty incident.” Even though this declaration was made, “the concert continued for another half hour,” the report read.
If a show needs to be stopped, local 911 response officials and a designated production team member with the power to shut it down are required to be on-site during the event to make the call. A clear chain of command should be established, and members of involved emergency response agencies should be included.
According to the report, “no permits were obtained” for Astroworld Fest and there was confusion over the permitting process for Astroworld and whether event organizers should have answered to the city or county.
“Highlighted in the discussion of the Astroworld event was the fact that the County had jurisdiction over the permitting requirements, but City 911 was responsible for responding to event incidents. Additionally, there was no Occupancy Load issued for the event, which is typically determined by the Fire Department,” the report read.
The task force said large-scale events should be permitted before they happen and follow permit guidelines. If an event lacks or violates its permit, the report said local officials can shut it down. Permitting was found to be inconsistent across Texas, prompting a recommendation that a universal permitting template is created.
Concertgoer ‘code of conduct’ recommended
Astroworld Fest’s setup differed from typical venues because it was held in a parking lot. If an event is set up in a non-traditional way, the task force said it requires “unique contingency plans,” especially if there is a breach, and people gain entry without a ticket.
At Astroworld, the report said, “hours before the performance began, the perimeter was breached by unticketed attendees. This rush of people overwhelmed available resources, leading to a variety of reported injuries throughout the day.”
The task force said event organizers can also utilize public service announcements to alert attendees to any dangerous situations that might occur, as well as encourage them to think about the safety of others. The report even recommended a “Concert Attendee Code of Conduct” be used in the ticketing process to “make clear what behaviors will lead to ejection.”
The group also suggested event organizers monitor social media and artist accounts to learn what is happening in the crowd in real-time, as well as researching the artist and talking with venues that have hosted the artist before to gauge crowd culture and safety.
“Some artists have a documented history of encouraging attendees to disregard public safety. When an artist does this, it could be considered a breach of contract and come with responsibility for any damage to property and people. Event promoters should partner with artists to encourage safety, since messaging from the artist can be uniquely persuasive for fans,” the report read.
In addition to its final report, the task force created an all-in-one Event Production Guide for event organizers and promoters, which can be found on the Texas Music Office website. Within it, training resources for event and security staff can be found. The task force said these team members need adequate training for each event.
“A series of preshow steps, such as tabletop exercises, site walkthrough drills, security briefings before and after shifts, establishment of a clear and well-disseminated communication tree, and agreed-upon show-stop triggers and responses are some of the elements of successful event protocol,” the report read.
Multiple lawsuits have been filed against Travis Scott and Astroworld for the deadly incident.