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Event Safety Summit Ready to Roll

“It’s about finding pathways to help the creative spirit continue, but for it to be able to do so with safety at the forefront.”

Lititz, PA (October 24, 2018)—The Event Safety Alliance was founded in 2011 in the wake of numerous weather-related accidents at outdoor concerts that summer, tragically culminating with the death of five concert goers when a grandstand collapsed on to hundreds of people before a Sugarland concert at the Indiana State Fair. Since then, the ESA has proactively worked to educate the live event and touring industry, most notably through its annual Event Safety Summit. The fifth edition takes place next month, November 28-30, at the Rock Lititz facility in Lititz, PA, and will include more than 20 presentations, workshops, forums and activities for attendees.

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Who should attend? As Jim Digby, executive director/founder of the ESA, tells it, the answer is basically anyone involved in the execution of a production. “The event in Indiana…caused an awakening of sorts in the industry—a realization that we can’t have people come to entertainment events and have this kind of outcome,” he said. “Yes, we can’t fix the weather, but many blamed what happened in Indiana on weather when in fact what really happened was the lack of an actionable plan—and that’s something we can fix.”

The Summit was originally instigated by weather-related events, but has expanded to include topics like crowd mechanics and terrorism. “We have broadened the base dialogue of the conference to be not just structural,” said Digby. “Now we’re including many of the things that have happened over the last 5-6 years as talking points. They provide an opportunity to learn from them and provide back to the industry at large more comprehensive ways to do business and discover how the insurers can work with us to get the protections that we need to avoid incidents.”

Not every topic is about reacting to outside forces; some have to do with paving the way for an artist’s creative vision. “The Summit in years past has dissected topics like the use of drones as part of a live event,” said Scott Carroll, executive vice president of Take1 Insurance, which is a presenting sponsor of the Summit. “The ESA does a great job of bringing in experts to discuss things, which we then put through the lens of safety; that has been a phenomenal awakening to a deeper dive on subjects that might not have gotten the attention without the Summit.”

This year’s theme, “Designing for Safety: Planning, Creativity, and the Art of Problem Solving,” will explore the importance of developing safety and operational plans, while answering the needs of production designers.

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“We have to be part and parcel in allowing that creative energy to continue to flow,” said Digby, “even when it’s ‘How do I set that car on fire on stage with the artist on top of it, and do so safely so that the artist can have the creative vision.’”

Letting a creative energy flow leads to communication that benefits everyone, and that’s been a key result of every Summit to date, said Carroll: “The Summits have broken the barriers that we didn’t know were there. Insurance companies now can communicate with the production people who have the duty of care at the live events, who are making the calls. The barriers have been broken down so we’re all the in the same room at the same table, having a real dialogue.”

Among the 20 presentations this year will be “Exhausted, Under Pressure and Out of Time,” examining the effects of stress on decision-making; “What’s Throng with this Situation?” looking at crowd psychology; “Left Hanging: Fall Rescue Planning,” covering grid crew safety and rescue plans; and “Sunny with a Chance of Lightning,” discussing the need for professional meteorologists in production.

That last one hits home for Digby—and was in fact what spurred the director of Touring and Production for platinum-selling artists Linkin Park to found the ESA. “Weather on your phone is not a solution when you have 10,000 people in front of your stage,” he said, “but I’ll raise my hand and say guilty, because before Indiana in 2011, that was me. I called up Accuweather on my phone and that’s how I protected my staff and artist and the audience. Indiana could have been me—I didn’t have any better plan in place.”

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While some might expect the Event Safety Summit to be three days of wagging fingers and the squelching of intriguing ideas, Digby averred that the event is in fact almost entirely the opposite: “It’s about finding pathways to help the creative spirit continue, but for it to be able to do so with safety at the forefront.”

Event Safety Alliance •