Although much remains uncertain about the horrific incidents in Orlando on both Friday night and early Sunday morning, we believe that enough is known for us to offer the following truths, which we believe are important to say because they appear not to be self-evident.
1. There is a “new normal.” The shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando on June 12, 2016 was, in terms of the number of casualties, the worst in U.S. history. Like the equally senseless death of Christina Grimmie just three miles away the night before, as well as the attacks in Paris last November, incidents like these show that live event venues are no more immune from active shooters than any other public place.
2. It is not actually that new. The Department of Justice counted 160 active shooter incidents in the U.S. from 2000 through 2013. But the trend has gotten dramatically worse. During the first half of that period, there were an average of 6.4 active shooter incidents per year; in the more recent half of that period, there were 16.4 incidents annually. And as shown by the accompanying chart, the incidents have not only gotten more numerous, they are leaving more casualties.
3. No venue or event can claim to be a particularly likely or unlikely target. The Event Safety Alliance firmly believes that no genre of music or entertainment should be blamed when patrons engage in dangerous activities that harm themselves or others. Likewise, regardless of the type of event, no one should go to work thinking they are immune from the threat of a gunman entering their site with deadly intent. The take-away message of active shooter incidents occurring at locations as diverse as a nightclub, movie theater, university, military installation, and elementary school, just to list the five worst, is that none of us has the luxury of complacency.
4. There are things that can be done. The Event Safety Alliance encourages healthy discussion of what should be done to keep people safe. Given the incredible diversity of event spaces around the world, clearly one size does not fit all. Here are a few ideas to consider.
- Run, Hide, Fight. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security advises that in an active shooter situation, everyone should try to work through the following steps, in this order: (1) Run away from the shooter if there is a safe way to exit; (2) If there is no obvious way to exit, but some other place nearby that is less exposed than where you currently are, go Hide there; (3) If you cannot run to safety and there is no good place to hide, then stay put and prepare to Fight with whatever is available. One version of Run, Hide, Fight instructions employed by ESA Director Charlie Hernandez can be found here .
- Crowd Manager Training. In any emergency, people exhibit a variety of abilities to assess and respond to danger. Live event spaces, being unfamiliar to crew and patrons and loud and dark during a show, present additional challenges. Accounts of many tragic incidents, including the nightclub shooting in Orlando, show that some people simply wait for direction or rescue. In order to help the most people reach safety, event professionals can, and arguably should, be trained in the techniques of crowd management.
- Security Guards. The simplest security measure is to have trained, licensed security guards performing rigorous bag checks and pat-downs of everyone seeking entry. There are conflicting reports as to how the shooter at Pulse got a bulky AR-15 assault weapon past the person at the door on a typically warm June night in Florida, but it is hard to argue that a person-to-person check at the point of entry, supported by immediately-available law enforcement to help deal with any issues, is a good idea.
- Magnetometers. Another option is magnetometers, either hand-held or walk-through. These have the benefit of allowing faster ingress than bag and body checks, and being potentially very sensitive to metal objects like guns; they have the disadvantage of being only as sensitive as the person calibrating them and stopping people who trigger an alarm, and they are also more expensive than guards alone. If magnetometers are used, they must be monitored by security guards trained in their use, and those guards, with the support of immediately-available law enforcement officers stationed nearby, must be prepared to detain and investigate anyone triggering an alarm.
- CPTED. Many larger event spaces have a perimeter plus additional space beyond it which could be used for the initial security checkpoint. This is the concept of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design, and it likely saved many lives when a security guard doing a pat-down stopped one of the Paris bombers outside Stade de France. Because the guard was posted away from the entrance, the bomber detonated his explosive belt far from the crowd, avoiding much larger casualties.
- More Guns Are Not the Answer. Whatever one feels about the right to carry firearms in other places, the Event Safety Alliance believes that there is no scenario in which a live event space is safer by adding more guns. An already loud, dark event with lots of people in close proximity, in a space that few crew or patrons know well, is not an environment in which even well-intentioned cross-fire is going to improve the situation.
5. When circumstances change, a reasonable person reevaluates his position. The law imposes on each of us the duty to behave as a reasonable person under the circumstances. This means that as circumstances change, we have a legal duty, as well as a moral one, to reevaluate what we do to see if our actions remain reasonable in light of what is now true. The Event Safety Alliance cannot identify a specific moment when it became imperative for event professionals to address public violence – it hardly matters if it was Sandy Hook or Aurora in 2012, Paris last year, or Orlando this weekend. What matters now is that, in addition to expressing our heartfelt condolences for the those who have suffered, we raise our own guard as an industry in order to help protect ourselves, our friends, and our families.
– Event Safety Alliance