Friday, July 15, 2011

Rihanna Concert Shutdown By Fire on Truss

The concert on 10 July 2011, in Dallas, Texas' American Airlines Center Arena (AAC) came to an abrupt halt after some pyrotechnics started a fire on a lighting truss near the front of the stage.  Witnesses say the front rows of the audience quickly cleared-out after sparks and fire started spewing from the truss.  Local TV station and CBS affiliate KTVT had first-hand reporting because several of their employees were attending the show.  KTVT's coverage of the situation can be found here:

A video of the fire shot by concert goers can be found on YouTube:

Up close view:

Quick acting show crew managed to get to the blaze with a fire extinguisher and subdue the flames.  (Not an easy task 30' in the air on a wiggly piece of truss!  Kudos to that guy!)  It appears that the AAC and concert promoter Live Nation didn't have a coherent emergency plan, as it was several minutes before the arena lights came up, and then another minute before an announcement was made that the show was over and that patrons should exit the facility.  Although there was some sense of urgency by the crowd that caused a back-up at the arena exits, once they made it to the concourse they were greeted by vendors still trying to sell them t-shirts and other souvenirs.  Hmmm.  What part of 'LEAVE THE BUILDING" didn't they get?

When watching the video shot by local news crews at the Great White concert in the Station nightclub in East Warwick, Rhode Island, three minutes into the fire there had already killed numerous people.  So, what took so long in the AAC?  Who was asleep at the switch in Dallas?

You can hear the show cancellation announcement on some of the videos found on-line, and it's not very good sounding (OK, it was a cell-phone mic making the recording, but you can still get a sense that the speech quality was less than ideal).  Yet another reason that a professionally recorded announcement is a good idea.  The playback device should be EQ'ed so that the voice track has maximum intelligibility (i.e. not muddy with too much bass) when played-back through the venue's sound system.  It should automatically override ALL other program feeds so that any stage mics, musical instruments, and/or background music tracks are completely muted.

When there is a fire or other emergency incident during a show, there should always be someone that has the authority to call the show, get the lights on, and see to it that an appropriate announcement is made to the audience without any delay.  There is no time to think abut Box Office losses, only people's lives.

Know the difference between a safety plan and an emergency plan - the first is what you need so you don't need the second,  The second is what you need when the first one wasn't successful.  An article published in the IAVM (formerly IAAM) Facility Manager magazine about this can be found here:

IAVM (International Association of Venue Managers) sponsors regular training classes on Emergency Planning and Employee Training to address these types of scenarios.  Is your venue a participating member?  If not, consider becoming one, as they have a large body of resources that can help any venue, large or small, non-profit or for-profit, private or public.

This blog's author, Teqniqal Systems, also provides assessment, guidance, and training for venue staffs.  Just like the Girl Scouts, you should always 'Be Prepared.'

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