Event “Safety” Alliance

event safety allianceFounded in January 2012, the Event Safety Alliance is a 501 C-3, not-for-profit, professional trade association comprised of roughly 2,000 individuals.  It mostly consists of people in the sporting, music, leisure and entertainment industry.

Their mission statement is pretty straightforward.

DO YOUR PART TO HELP PUT LIFE SAFETY FIRST

For a nominal fee ($49.95), you can even order the “Event Safety Guide.”  This book is hailed as the first published safety guide directed specifically at the live event industry.  It’s a compilation of the best operational practices currently available.  It covers emergency planning, weather preparedness, crowd control, fire safety and a myriad of other technical issues.  In an effort to provide the best possible information, helpful planning checklists and industry standards are culled from departments within FEMA: NIMS (National Incident Management System) and ICS (Incident Command System).

An excerpt from the ESA website regarding its origins:

“This is a massive undertaking, intended to be transparent and ALL inclusive, it is our mandate to give each individual the opportunity to participate in the process and take part in the peer review that will complete this long overdue work. EVERYONE will have the ability to review and comment on the work and the process as we move forward.”

Thank you for your participation…YOU are the Event Safety Alliance!

Sensing this inviting atmosphere of cooperation, I posted a concern about outdated emergency evacuation protocol on the Event Safety Alliance facebook page in mid-January of 2014.  I wrote about how the ubiquitous presence of cellular technology has fundamentally altered the playing field.  Incident commanders no longer have that same level of authority and control over the dispensation of real-time information.  I posted the AGSAF mission statement.

People have a fundamental right to know…
that if they’re in a large, confined crowd and receive an evacuation notice and/or panic-inducing information from their personal cell phone or mobile device…
it’s almost certainly a hoax designed to create an artificially generated stampede.

From a major event perspective, it’s difficult to fathom a simpler message designated to foster an atmosphere of fan safety and awareness.

I’d be more specific about the exact time and date of the post, but my comment was abruptly DELETED.   But it didn’t stop there.  The ESA, in its infinite wisdom, disabled their whole comment section.  Not just from that one post.  At some point between January 17-20, 2014, they eliminated ALL comment sections from their entire facebook page!  Now nobody can comment on anything.

… YOU are the Event Safety Alliance.  You?  Who??  Me???

You’re probably wondering if I possess definitive proof of my post being the reason for the communication takedown?  Nope.  Let’s just say I have a strong hunch.

Further augmenting the irony, their facebook page still offers the following statement…

“We welcome you and would like you to join us in our mission to make all events a safer place.  We encourage readers to post comments relevant to the original post.”

Talk about sending a mixed message.  We want you to express your opinion.  But technically speaking, we won’t be giving you the option.  How’s that for a paradox?

So here’s the obvious question.  Why would they do this?  Well… it’s difficult to speculate, but I’ll give it a shot.

I think when I posted that single sentence, I opened up a can of worms.  I raised a transformational issue, one which has not yet been dealt with… by mankind.  One that irrevocably alters the established terrain of communications, emergency management protocol and humanity at-large.

The underlying premise for any emergency evacuation is based upon the key notion that the incident commander has direct authority and control over the initial evacuation order.  But wait a minute.  This simply does not comport with real-world conditions.  At some NCAA football games, there are as many as 100,000 active cell phones in the stadium.

Think about it.  Each fan has potential exposure to an evacuation order and/or panic inducing information on an INDIVIDUALIZED basis.  Phone calls, social media transmissions, texts, notifications, alerts, etc.  The notion of a hack or viral hoax is material for a book in itself.

Even if every single person had the cognitive ability to properly assess the situation, dismiss such an evacuation order and remain perfectly calm, wouldn’t it be wise to prepare a contingency plan?  After all, some people get a little skittish when they hear or see the word “bomb.”  Ya know… just in case someone, somewhere on the planet has a nefarious agenda.   I dunno… maybe just let people know the following:

Please be aware… that in the unlikely event of an emergency evacuation, a legitimate order would NEVER originate from your personal cell phone.  

Any competent incident commander would wholeheartedly agree with this statement.

Occasionally looping that one sentence over the public address system would be a good place to start.  That’s all it would take.  A straightforward, no-nonsense acknowledgment that society has changed.  On the other hand, all those ESA industry experts would have to come to some sort of new consensus.  Sounds challenging, particularly when you don’t allow for any outside input.

They’d likely have to publish an entirely new edition of the “Event Safety Guide.”  Even though they’re a non-profit organization, this could prove rather costly.   And it could be embarrassing for a ton of other organizations (NFL, NCAA, NBA, MLB, NHL, NASCAR, IRL, MLS, etc).  And it would present some new challenges for the federal government (DHS, FCC, DOE, FEMA, FBI, NSA, etc.).  That’s a slew of letters and acronyms.  Change is a real bitch!

If any of this concerns you, I’d start by contacting ESA President Jim Digby.  But he doesn’t offer an email address.  And his organization doesn’t divulge their physical address.  They also don’t have a publicly listed telephone number.  Maybe you could inquire in their comment section.  Oops, sorry.  I forgot.  No comments allowed.