Does your venue or festival have a security plan in place?

Since October’s tragic shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas, and last May’s Manchester Arena bombing, large arenas and music festivals have been focusing on audience safety and concert security like never before. They are using their resources to invest in security consultants and develop robust emergency plans.

But even smaller clubs and theaters need to have a plan to keep fans safe. “At events with 5,000 to 10,000 capacity, there may be just one head of operations,” says Eventbrite’s director of field operations Tommy Goodwin.

Goodwin works closely with music venues and festivals large and small to manage their onsite strategy. “Concert security might just be one of many things that the operations manager is in charge of. As a result, they may lack full understanding of or even the bandwidth for emergency preparedness.”

Whether you’re a team of one or have a significant security budget, Goodwin recommends you prioritize these three top concert security principles.

1. Emphasize exits

“If there’s one thing you should worry about, it’s getting people out,” says Goodwin. “Part of the problem in the past has been that many attendees didn’t know where they could exit.”

Think about it from the concert attendee’s perspective: You might assume you can only exit at the main entrance. But that exit may not be nearby in an emergency situation, or it may be bottlenecked.

Make sure your team is prepared:

  • Every time a concert ends, practice getting people out quickly by opening all exits. Your team will get used to making sure exit paths are clear, and repeat patrons will come to learn where the exits are.

2. Communication

Communication often breaks down in an emergency. Without effective communication, even the best-laid plans can go awry. 

Make sure you have clear communication paths with everyone on your team. Establishing a chain of command can save precious minutes. “Everyone should have an understanding of their role, who the decision makers are, and how they are going to disseminate decisions,” says Goodwin.

Make sure your team is prepared:

  • Have a plan to communicate with attendees. Make sure one person on your staff is in charge of sharing information with attendees via email, social media, and text or push notifications.
  • Consider drafting copy in advance so you can get urgent messages out clearly on the day of the event.
  • Develop regular communication with your local police department, fire department, and emergency services. “The more you show diligence toward those public agencies early, the better it will be in an emergency situation,” Goodwin says.

3. Practice

Once you have your concert security plan nailed down, you need to practice. In addition to regularly rehearsing egress by opening all exits at the end of every concert, run a communications drill before opening the doors.

Make sure your team is prepared:

  • Go beyond a simple radio check; confirm the hierarchy of information flow from the decision maker to all venue staff. And make sure you have staff with two-way radios in sensitive areas.
  • Go over safety procedures after concerts as part of an operational review process.

You can’t predict if or when dangerous incidents may occur, but a clear, well-practiced plan can help keep fans and staff safe.

Want to learn more? Goodwin recommends all venue and festival heads of operations make use of the resources available through the Event Safety Alliance. In particular, the organization’s publication, The Event Safety Guide, is a helpful field manual of best safety practices and how to apply them.

For more on how to plan for a smooth-running concert or music festival, see Checklist: How to Foolproof Your Festival Operations.