AUSTIN (KXAN) — A task force created last year to research the most effective ways to keep concertgoers safe released its final report Tuesday, according to Gov. Greg Abbott’s office.
The Texas Task Force on Concert Safety was created in November 2021 after the Astroworld Festival in Houston, which left 10 people dead and over 300 injured after 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.
Here’s a breakdown of what best practices they’re recommending for mass gatherings.
Centralized authority on site
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. 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.
The task force wrote at Astroworld, by mid-concert, while on-site medical staff was dealing with a number of injuries, the Houston Fire Department “self-initiated a response,” which let 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.
The task force said event promoters should also decide which EMS/fire/police agencies should respond to their event. Members of those agencies should then be included on the on-site command and control group. While outside security support is allowed, it shouldn’t replace local authorities, and meetings before the event are recommended to strengthen communication between the two groups.
Consistent permitting practices
According to the report, “no permits were obtained” for Astroworld Fest. The task force said large-scale events should be permitted before they happen and follow permit guidelines. The report also said local officials can shut down the show if it’s found the event didn’t get a permit or has violated its permit.
The task force wrote there was also 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 it also found permitting was inconsistent across the state and recommended that a universal permitting template be created.
Planning for event setup and researching the artist
The task force said Astroworld Fest’s setup differed from typical venues like the ATT Center or Globe Life, 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.”
It was also recommended event organizers monitor social media and artist accounts to learn what is happening in the crowd in real time. The task force also promoted researching the artist and talking with venues who 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.
In the guide, 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.