This tragic incident happened on Friday, November fifth of 2021, in Houston, Texas, at NRG Park. About fifty thousand people attended the show, where ten people got killed and hundreds badly injured after the crowd surged towards the stage where Travis Scott performed. Eight people died while twenty-five others got hospitalized on a fateful day. The whole escapade remains unclear of how it happened as eyewitnesses say that the crowd just began to push in front for no apparent reason squeezing the people in front, making them trapped and unable to escape. This escalated very fast when Scott appeared on the stage and even got worse when he started performing. People began to push each other forward and backward, compressing each other until they started to suffocate because there was not enough air to breathe, and even some would fall, and others would trample over their bodies. In all this chaos, Travis Scott continued to perform even after several shouts from the crowd screaming that the show should be stopped because people were dying.
The following are the victims who died as a result of the stampede: John Hilbert, fourteen years of age who was a ninth-grader at Houston’s Memorial High School; Brianna Rodriguez, sixteen years of age of Houston’s Heights High School; Axel Acosta, twenty-one years from Washington state who traveled all the way to see Scott perform in Astroworld, Danish Baig, twenty-seven years who met his death while trying to protect his fiancé who luckily survived, Rudy Pena, twenty-three years old, Franco Patino, twenty-one years and a student from the University of Dayton, pursuing electrical engineering, Madison Dubiski, twenty-three years old, Bharti Shahani, twenty-two years a student at Texas A&M University and the tenth person was a nine-year-old Ezra Blount who was a huge fan of Travis Scott.
As the reasons for the surge remain unclear, it is linked to an incident where a person was said to be injecting people with some drugs. This caused panic attacks to the people in that area, who started to cause a commotion as they tried to escape the person. Also, the security officers had shown concern about the large crowd even before it went down. One of the security officers personally visited Scott and raised concerns about the safety of the attendees. As the show went on, Scott discovered the unrest in his audience but could not tell the extent to which it was, though, at some point, He must have felt that something was not right that he even stopped the show and called for help. The show finally stopped after forty minutes despite all the unrest. This brought mixed reactions among people who had called out the rapper for not ending the show soonest when he learned of the chaos. They have continued to judge him from his past incidents during his shows where he portrays a dangerous behavior of inciting his fans and having wild shows (Savage, 2021). Travis Scott came to learn about the whole tragedy much later after the concert and became very remorseful.
The above tragedy has brought the meaningful context of creating awareness about crowd surges and stampedes in crowded places. A crowd surge refers to a large group who are very close to each other, moving unexpectedly and quickly. It mostly occurs in concerts, protests, festivals, and sporting events because they normally attract large crowds. This is a fatal incident because when people compress against each other, push forward or backward, the people at the front can be pushed against the barriers the ones in the middle can be squeezed in between, some people can fall, making others pile on top of them and others can pass out due to lack of air to breathe. The crowd surge at the Travis Scott performance must have been caused by fans’ excitement to go back to partying lifestyle after the Covid pandemic that had caused the closure of all festivals.
Other reasons that cause surges in events include the design of the event. This includes regulating the crowd’s density according to the guidelines set by the national fire protection association. There must be enough space for people to move around. Failure to regulate the crowd, the possibility for an occurrence of a surge is very high. Sudden rain or hailstorm may make people start running for cover, leading to crowd surges or stampedes. Poor management also is among the reasons why surges and stampedes occur. When the event planners and organizers do not have well-laid procedures to report and foresee possible warnings, then there is a risk of a surge. Events that attract large crowds need to have trained personnel who can spot the likelihood of a surge happening and be able to take prompt action like stopping the performance from calming the crowd or even intervening and putting tight security in the areas and parts of the crowd that appears to be wild and unrest. Like in the case of the Astroworld festival, it is evident that there was poor organization and management in the event. The show-stopped forty minutes later after a series of unrest which should not be the case. The performance could have been stopped immediately when the crowd showed restlessness.
The management should not be the only ones taught how to handle crowd surges. The people in attendance should also be given survival tips on how to survive if they are caught up amid dangerous and deadly surges. The following are some of the guidelines: once in the crowd, you should always keep your eyes open to detect any danger sign that may arise. This will enable you to calculate your next move. However, if it is possible not to put yourself in such a situation the that’s the best thing to do because heavily crowded areas normally attract surges and stampedes. Leave the event as soon as you start feeling uncomfortable. When you start feeling the crowd is becoming too dense, and you feel squeezed in a way, the best thing is to leave the event immediately. Stand on your feet. This helps you not to fall because it will be difficult to get back to your feet again. Also, it prevents other people from falling on you because once you fall, it is automatic that the people next to you will also fall. Preserve enough space around your chest. This helps you not to run out of oxygen. The main cause of deaths in crowd surges and stampedes is suffocation due to lack of enough oxygen. A good way to do this is by putting your hands in front of your chest. Don’t push or pull people; move with the crowd. When the push is from the backside, do not push back just move to the direction where it is going. Don’t also add more pressure to the already existing force because you can cause some people to hit obstacles and barriers (Kasakove & Patel, 2021). Avoid walls and objects. Most fatalities in surges and stampedes result from people getting compressed into a wall or objects around them. When you are in the middle of the crowd, you can move with the crowd, but when you are standing against a wall, you will not be able to move with the crowd since the wall prevents you; hence you get crushed on it. Learn to detect crowd density. This can be practically done so that if you feel many people touching you on both your shoulders and other parts of your body, it means the area is overcrowded. That alone should give you the mind to move away because there is already a risk of the surge. And lastly, if you feel you are unsafe, look for others and try to communicate to them about your worry. They might as well hint that it is actually not safe, and all of you can get out of the event uninjured. Most of the deaths that occurred in Astroworld are because most of the victims did not have the above knowledge.
Several management crisis and communication lessons have come out following the deadly tragedy. The Astroworld tragedy has become an eye-opener for organizers, and very many lessons can be derived from the incident. Among them are paying attention to early warnings. Identifying early warnings enables the management to plan effectively and put measures to curb the possibility of a surge. In the above tragedy, one of the security officers visited Travis Scott and informed if of the concern he had about the crowd attending the show. He felt that there was a lot of tension that the concert was creating. This was evident because tickets worth a hundred thousand sold out for this year’s event yet only fifty thousand people were only allowed in the show. If that could have been taken as a warning and necessary precautions taken, the whole tragedy would not have happened. People would not have lost lives. Apparently, safety precautions could have been put in place for the anticipation of the chaos as initially foreseen. Secondly, if an artist senses something wrong with the crowd, they should do something about it. He can either call security to ascertain what is going on or stop performing for something to ensure that there is nothing wrong at all. Unlike in the case above, Travis Scott continued to perform even amid the unrest coming up from the crowd and ignoring all the signs he was being told to stop the show. Third, have a crisis management plan for every possible scenario. This helps the management to be ready for anything that may come up amid the concert. The Astroworld festival had an emergency response team for scenarios such as bomb threats, lightning, and even earthquakes, but they did not put in place measures about crowd surges, stampedes and crowd crushes. Forth, it is good as an artist to come out and talk about how you felt about what happened in your concert just like Travis Scott came out and became remorseful about the whole tragedy. He sympathized with the victims and promised that he would cover all the funeral expenses. Fifth, is to follow the National Fire Protection Association’s crowd density guidelines. Your team should ensure that there is enough space for your fans to move around. This can be done by putting up barriers to divide the categories of fans like VVIP, VIP and the regular audience and also setting up pens to break large crowds in sizeable numbers. Sixth, is to understand the causes of crowd surges (Bekiempis, 2021). Many producers normally plan for surges that may be caused by fires and stampedes caused by people running away. However, during the Astroworld tragedy, the surge was caused by people moving forward towards the stage. This has given producers another point as they plan for surges. Producers must have a strategy to spot warnings amid the crowds; they should also have people in communication with someone close to the artist so that if an emergency occurs, they can stop the performance temporarily and attend to the emergency. Seventh is to have proper training on the onsite crew. The team should ensure that they are occupied with the right tools and ready to take action in case of an emergency. Some of the training guidelines include mandate cardiac, pulmonary resuscitation training for all the members of the team, coming up with a program for the training of new or replacement staff write down the needed skills and the required training, having a booklet of expectations and rules, maintain training records and lastly prepare for the worst-case scenario. Eight is to have special safety measures for children. Among the victims who died in the Astroworld festivals are children; this gave rise to the need to ensure the safety of children in concerts. The management team should ensure kids get back to their parents safely.
It is the wish of all attendees of concerts and festivals to go and have a nice time as they enjoy listening to the music and dancing. Event producers’ and organizers’ role is to ensure that fans experience great fun in the music. By doing this, they will be guaranteed that they will come back to more and more concerts. To win this, they have to ensure that the fans get the best customer services they would want. Those services can be of drinks and foods. The attendants should be humble and offer high quality services. Ensuring fans’ safety is also another reason to attract a large crowd the next time a concert happens. People want a place that is very safe for them. Their belongings should be safe thigh-quality is another factor. The management should handle fans very respectfully and with great dignity. In case of a disagreement among the fans, the management should be at the forefront to help solve the matter. The management should also communicate with the fans appropriately. Ina appropriate behaviors will scare away fans. All people attending the concert are entitled to a duty of care. They should be protected from any physical and emotional harm. The areas of concern include fire safety, food safety, personal safety, child and adult protection health, and safety, among other concerns. However, the management might use behavioral analysis or verbal de-escalation skills to control any situation amid some threats. Behavior analysis in security refers to a threat detection measure that entails understanding users’ behaviors within your circle. How they behave will make you understand them better, and this will direct you to either leave that environment or not. Verbal de-escalation is the use of verbal and nonverbal communication techniques to prevent hostility, avoid fights and threats, and make people comfortable around each other. When there are no threats, verbal de-escalation helps one to maintain a professional composure when dealing with verbal hostility and abuse.
In conclusion, the Astroworld festival tragedy that led to the death of ten people, including a nine-year-old boy, has had a great impact on entertainment. It has raised so many questions that producers and event planners need to address as they prepare for concerts. They should ensure the safety of all the people attending the concert, from fans, performers, staff, and contractors. They should put down measures such as good planning, more so in the part of crowd management, following the national fire protection association guidelines on crowd density, understanding crowd surges and finding possible precautions to undertake to prevent such from happening again, putting down safety guidelines about children, having proper communication channels among others.
Bekiempis, V. (2021, November 14). Everything we know about the Astroworld tragedy so far. Retrieved from https://www.vulture.com/2021/11/astroworld-festival-tragedy-travis-scott-explainer.html
Kasakove, S., & Patel, V. (2021, November 8). What to know about the Houston Astroworld tragedy. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/article/astroworld-festival-what-to-know.html
Savage, M. (2021, November 9). Travis Scott festival tragedy: Were warning signs missed at Astroworld? Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-59205840