Astroworld's 'off the shelf' safety plan shows organizers weren't prepared for the deadly crowd surge, industry expert says
- The operations plan for Astroworld should have included instructions for a crowd surge, an industry
- 9 people died at the festival last week after a large crowd of people rushed toward the main stage.
The event operations plan for
Nine people died at the festival after the crowd of more than 50,000 surged toward the stage in
Joseph Bogdan, an associate professor in Columbia College Chicago's
"I think it's an 'off the shelf' plan," Bogdan told Insider. "I'm speculating here, but I would say probably 80% or 90% of it, they didn't even consider and read themselves."
The 56-page planning document was written by the Texas-based festival production company, Scoremore, and did not include instructions for what to do in case of a crowd rush. Scoremore did not immediately return Insider's request for comment.
Bogdan said the danger of crowd surges is "something we've known about as an industry here for 40 or 50 years and it just keeps happening" because "the artists think it's cool to see people operating like a rotary razor from the stage."
Kevin Lyman, a professor of practice at the University of Southern California and the founder of Vans Warped Tour, said it is standard to have a plan in place to stop a concert in the case of an emergency that usually consists of a person directly contacting the artist on stage.
"It all just comes down to having communication with someone that the artist respects to be able to get to him as quick as possible because that's the only way you can really calm something like this down," Lyman said, adding that he's "had to stop probably 100 shows" in his life.
Lyman said the best way to prevent crowd surges is to have layered fencing throughout the audience that keeps them separated into smaller groups.
Most large general admission events also will have fenced-off "channels" throughout the crowd that allows emergency personnel to pass through, Bogdan said, which Astroworld did not have according to the operations plan.
Bogdan said he thought it was possible that the people organizing the concert pushed forward with the operations plan without having a firm understanding of it because the city of Houston was pressuring them to provide a safety plan for the event, so "they found something and handed it in so to speak without really focusing on it beforehand."
According to Bogdan, event organizers who are coming up with plans for emergencies look at documents from previous events and base their plans on them "all the time."
Bogdan also said it was unusual that the plan said the concert should continue in the face of a "bomb or terrorist threat" made as long as it was not in the spectators' immediate area.
"It's interesting to me because you would have to define what's proximate to the event," Bogdan told Insider.
The plan, in general, is very vague, Bogdan said, noting that the perceived ambiguity around the document's instructions for bomb threat was unusually vague for a large event.
"It leaves too many open questions and it leaves too many chances for differing interpretations as to what the plan needs," Bogdan told Insider.
Bogdan said it was normal for operations plans to include "code words that are memorable" for event staff to use in reference to people who die during concerts. But, he said the term "smurf" used in the Astroworld operations plan is not standard.
"One of the issues is, in hindsight, when there wind up being eight "smurfs," that looks a little callous to have used that word," Bogdan said.
Lyman also said he had "never heard of" code words being used to discuss deceased people at concerts. According to Lyman, it is standard to have code words that indicate to crew members that they should switch to private radio channels in the case of emergency, but not normal to have code words for dead people.
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