There's An Active Shooter At My Gig: Crew Safety On the Job
WEDNESDAY // NOVEMBER 9, 2017
With headlines polluted with the deadliest shootings and massacres of our time, we are reminded to be vigilant - check our surroundings, keep our eyes open, look over our shoulders. But what if you’re attacked at your gig? When you’re in full-on work mode, the thought of someone with 100 percent intent to kill does not reside in your everyday state of mind.
Just like you are 100 percent trained and proficient in every aspect in event production, these killers are 100 percent trained and proficient working toward a goal to cause as many casualties as possible.
In wake of the Vegas shooting, Newsweek recently reported on the lack of knowledge among crew members have in how to respond to an active shooter during an event. Event workers and security experts told Newsweek that the amount of people who are not aware and lack guidance in wake of an emergency is a problem, and a plan must be made to solve the problem.
Of course every situation will be different, and there are no such guidelines that can apply to each and every one of them. But, there are things you should know to help you make decisions that can ultimately result in life or death. This information should be used at your own risk, and used to spread awareness across the board of crew workers and more.
The Route 91 Harvest festival shooting was the first of its kind, in both the killer’s method and in the highest number casualties. The training in regards to an active shooter does not exist for open space venues. An OSHA trainer told Pollstar that they will begin doing more active shooter training for these types of events.
This kind of emergency calls for communication lines. Michael Rozin, president of security consulting company suggested to Newsweek that the main training that can be done here is to communicate to others where the safer place is through communication systems like a bullhorn or microphone system.
As far as protecting yourself as a crew member?
For the Vegas type of tragedy, most cannot find the origin of the gunfire. Does the Avoid/Deny/Defend strategy still apply to you? Marty Adock, the program manager of the grant-funded Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) told the Daily Mail that in wake of the Vegas shooting, your only options are to move further outside the venue, or put yourself behind vehicles or barriers.
In response to Le Bataclan Attack in Paris on November 13, 2015, Brendon Grimes, owner of TSC Productions in Florida and a former Combat Mission Load Master of two decades, told Jim on Light that heavier cases like cable trunks and stage decking is better to hide behind, or make yourself a smaller target. So, in terms of protecting yourself during a tragedy such as the Route 91 Vegas shooting, hiding behind objects such as these may be your best bet and only option.
As we know, crew members passed away at Le Bataclan Attack. The house lighting tech at FOH, Natalie Nardin, succumbed from her injuries after taking rounds of ammunition, as well as merchandiser Nick Alexander.
After the Orlando Shooting at Pulse Nightclub on June 12, 2016, there was chatter among lighting designers taking part in aiding the crowd in hopes to signal alarms in an emergency, reported PBS. However, these kind of event-halting situations can cause panic among the crowd. Also, staying behind in a location furthest away from the exit, puts a technical crew member in danger, as we know from Nardin’s death at Bataclan.
Below is a photo of Le Bataclan's floor layout, with escape routes highlighted.
Like spectators, crew members are also just as much at risk when an active shooter enters the building. While focusing completely on making sure attendees are receiving the best possible live show they can get, will you know how to protect yourself?
Patrick Dierson, a production designer and former militant with some OGA experience told Jim on Light that having situational awareness is key - know what’s going on around you, know your exits and surroundings in a large crowd. He explains that as one should not live in fear, “keeping your head on a swivel isn’t out of line.”
From the SEAL SURVIVAL GUIDE: A Navy SEAL's Secrets to Surviving Any Disaster, Former Navy Seal Cade Courtley, outlines situation awareness in five points:
- Try to guess what individuals around you are thinking or doing.
- Look for odd behavior or things that seem out of place.
- Determine where you'd go if you had to seek immediate cover from an explosion or gunshots.
- Find the two closest exits.
- Determine whether someone is following you or taking an unusual interest in you.
The question of being armed or unarmed during a gig comes into play. Dierson explains that carrying or not, the second gunfire sounds in any situation, you must take cover immediately and then assess what your exit options are. Becoming a “hero” by waving your gun and intervening the situation, even with extensive gun training, is positioning yourself as the killer’s next target. He instead urges those to cover and then exit as quickly as possible while safely helping others when possible.
Dierson explains covering and exiting in a leap frog analogy - that is, running from each largest and heaviest object to the next on your way toward the exit and into safety. He mentions hiding behind dimmer racks or the audio’s kit. In a venue situation, the concrete walls are best since they eventually lead to exits.
After the Manchester Attack, Tim Roberts, Event Safety Alliance (ESA) Board Member and Director of the Event Safety Shop, provided this document for touring crew regarding how to counter attacks: Counter Terrorism Advice for Concert Crew. The document may be a response to bombing, but the same type of situational awareness / get yourself out responses do apply.
However, Dierson is against the idea of an armed crew. Having the crew trained in CPR, basic first aid, & advanced situational awareness should take priority over handling a gun onsite. To sum his words up, using your mind is the best thing you can do by staying focused, alert, and telling someone when you notice anything suspicious.
Of course, if crew had a gun and had proper gun training AND had time to catch the threat beforehand, there could be a chance in fighting back. WIth the killer’s intent to kill and your intent to give a killer live show, the chances of all those factors positively changing the outcome are slim to none.
Production designer Rick Reeves, a former Navy Security member during the Iraq Wars, told Jim on Light that your primary goal is to get out, and that failure to do so will result in losing your own life. Knowing your exits and keeping calm are two things that will save your life in light of an active shooter.
The only exception for using your gun, Reeves mentions, is if you can retrieve it without notice and the killer is within seven feet with his back facing your direction.
Grimes adds that with all second amendment cases put aside, anyone who wishes to carry a firearm needs to be fully trained a qualified to do so. But, again, getting down, covered, and out are the very first primary things crew needs to focus on. The steps summarized and, outlined below, are:
- Get down
- Get out as fast and as safely possible
- Dont panic
- Don’t play hero
- If you cannot get out, stay hidden until you can get out
- When you’re out call emergency
- If you cannot, hide until you have to fight for your life
Say your higher authority does allow you to carry concealed as per your permitted status allows, the four rules of firearm safety should already be engraved in your mind. These four rules are outlined on the NRA’s website as well: https://gunsafetyrules.nra.org/.
If you’re still thinking of being the hero, the consequences of attempting and failing are tremendous. You can kill an innocent bystander or even yourself. The point is, if you have other available options, getting yourself and others safely out is the number one thing you can do to save your life.