AUSTIN (KXAN) — Five months after the Astroworld Festival tragedy, the final report from Gov. Greg Abbott’s Texas Task Force on Concert Safety was released Tuesday — and a concert safety consultant doesn’t believe it goes nearly far enough.
The nine-page report (seven pages without the cover and table of contents) lays out recommendations to keep concertgoers safe and prevent another crowd surge like the one that killed 10 people and injured hundreds at last November’s festival in Houston.
The suggestions include requiring centralized on-site command at events to quickly decide whether to shut down or pause concerts during emergencies.
Other recommendations direct event organizers to be clear on which agencies will respond to any 911 calls, to research the artists ahead of time to know what kind of crowd to expect.
“It’s a very disappointing report, very superficial,” said Paul Wertheimer, who runs Crowd Management Strategies, a concert safety consulting firm based in Los Angeles.
In 1979, Wertheimer was part of the task force brought together after a crowd surge killed 11 people at a The Who concert in Cincinnati, Ohio.
He told KXAN the findings in the Texas report, although good ones, are too general and “nothing new,” relying heavily on documents already available online and saying little in the way of enforcement.
“It’s not going to go anywhere. They needed to put teeth in that report,” Wertheimer said. “You can’t talk just about training; you have to talk about what kind of training.”
“And I didn’t see any mention in the report about festival standing room environments, the kind of environment we saw at Astroworld,” he continued. “That’s the most dangerous and deadly crowd configuration for live entertainment events.”
The task force report does lay out specific recommendations when it comes to permitting for big events, suggesting a move to a universal template for permits statewide. Right now, municipalities handle their own permits, while unincorporated parts of counties defer to state statutes.
That’s a problem, according to James Gresham, a board member of the Texas Municipal Police Association, which was part of the governor’s task force.
“For some counties, [overseeing permits] is a very labor-intensive process,” Greshman told KXAN. “Some counties, if they do it at all, it’s more of a rubber stamp.”
Gresham, who helps facilitate the Larry Joe Taylor Texas Musical Festival in Stephenville, said the Texas Legislature could help find permitting solutions during the next legislative session.
“Some states that have a really strong history of festivals, New York, California, for instance, their planning requirements are much more extensive than what we have here in Texas,” he said.
Abbott’s office said no one was available Tuesday for an interview. Questions submitted by email were not answered by deadline.
The governor did issue a brief statement alongside the republishing of the report, thanking the task force for its work, adding, “The recommendations, findings, and solutions detailed in this report will help the State of Texas prevent another tragedy like that at Astroworld Festival from happening again.”