Texas task force on concert safety releases final report on what went wrong at Astroworld Music Festival

Texas task force on concert safety releases final report on what went wrong at Astroworld Music Festival

Travis Scott’s Astroworld Music Festival was declared a mass casualty event after 10 individuals died due to crowd surge. (Sofia Gonzalez/Community Impact Newspaper)

Governor Greg Abbott, alongside his Texas Task Force on Concert Safety, released the final report on concert safety in an effort to ensure another incident like Travis Scott’s Astroworld does not happen again.

Hours before Scott, the main headliner for the first day of the festival, took the stage Nov. 5, 2021, unticketed fans hopped the fence and broke down barricades to attend the festival. Midway through the concert, there were reports of multiple injuries tied to crowd surges, causing staff to become overwhelmed.

The Houston Police Department initiated a self-response, the report said, which is what led to the declaration of a mass casualty event. According to the report, 10 people died as a result of the crowd compression, with many more taken to the hospital for critical injuries.

The task force was created on Nov. 21 to create a list of new recommendations for concert safety. In the report, the task force identified gaps in Astroworld planning that led it to become a mass casualty event.

According to the report, the use of a unified on-site command and control structure would have allowed for an authority to pause or cancel the concert amid a need for addressing a safety incident.

“Successful implementation requires representatives from local 911 response as well as a designated representative from the production team with ‘show stop’ authority to remain on-site throughout the event,” authors wrote in the report. “Chain of command must be clearly communicated and documented. Communication is key when seconds matter.”

The report said event promoters should identify which emergency services would respond to which types of emergency calls and have those teams employed as unified on-site command and control members. With a relationship established with local first-responders, communication would be easier in times of emergency, the report found.

The report also found a lack of consistency in the permitting process. Astroworld was permitted by Harris County, but city of Houston 911 was responding to the incidents, authors wrote. The festival also had no occupancy load issued from the Houston Fire Department.

Recommendations to address the issue include making the public aware of permit requirements; asking local authorities to shut the show down once a permit is breached or if the event is done without one; creating a universal permitting template; and creating a checklist for county judges to follow for issuing permits.

In a statement, Harris County Fire Marshal Laurie L. Christensen said she appreciates the work of the task force. However, she said the statutes referenced in the final report do not apply to the Astroworld tragedy, because it was not permitted by Harris County.

“The fact the Astroworld event occurred within the city of Houston along with the [memorandum of understanding] between Harris County and the city of Houston clearly shows Harris County lacked any jurisdiction for permitting the Astroworld event,” Christensen said.

According to the report, promoters, staff and first responders should all have robust training, including tabletop exercises, site walkthrough drills, security briefings, establishment of a clear communication tree and an agreement for show-stop triggers and responses.

With Astroworld occurring in a parking lot, the report said it would have required a unique contingency plan. The venue combined with the use of barricades left the festival susceptible to breach and crowd control issues, authors wrote.

Recommendations to prevent the same issues in the future include preparing for foreseeable hazards, establishing a code of conduct and analyzing social media to see the mood of the crowd in real time or if an artist is encouraging bad behavior.

To create a centralized resource, an Event Production Guide has been released by the Texas Music Office with resource documents with recommendations.

Although Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner has yet to release an official statement, he gave a generalized review of the new report during an April 20 press conference, saying he has no concerns about what he read and that he was supportive of it.

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