INDIANAPOLIS – The Indiana State Fairs deadly stage collapse and other recent concert venue tragedies demonstrate the entertainment industrys urgent need to adopt best practices intended to safeguard fans lives, the co-founder of a national group pressing that goal said Friday.
The Event Safety Alliance, an ad hoc group formed last year by an array of industry veterans, brings its mission to Indianapolis on April 23 for a meeting expected to attract about 100 people. That gathering will include Indiana officials who will discuss the lessons of the Aug. 13 state fair stage collapse that killed seven people and injured dozens more.
But alliance co-founder Jim Digby said those deaths and injuries before a scheduled concert by country duo Sugarland concert wont be the meetings focus.
Digby, whos the tour manager for rock band Linkin Park, said the spotlight will instead be on boosting relationships between government officials and entertainment industry leaders for the common goal of making concerts and other live events safer.
Were not looking to the past. Were looking to the future and how we can immediately make an impact and raise awareness – the bar as it were – on the established best practices in the industry, he said.
Digby said a 200-page document drafted in Great Britain thats nicknamed the Purple Guide and addresses everything from stage design to safely ushering fans in and out of venues could serve immediately as a guide for the U.S. industry until it can draft its own version.
He said that while national standards would be an important step forward, he would personally like to see global standards because many entertainment acts tour the world.
Aside from the Indianas fair deaths, last year also saw the deaths of five people during a music festival in Belgium hit by a thunderstorm that toppled tents and scaffolding onto fans.
If were all building to a global standard, then chances are when we come to your little town, wherever it is, were going to be prepared for you and youll be prepared for us in a way that protects human life, Digby said.
About 20 members of the Event Safety Alliance will attend the Indianapolis meeting, which is being hosted by the Indiana Department of Homeland Security. John Erickson, a spokesman for the agency, said he did not know what type of presentation state officials would offer on the state fair tragedy during the gathering.
Indiana hired Thornton Tomasetti, an engineering company, and emergency planning advisers Witt Associates to investigate last Augusts disaster. Those findings were released Thursday.
Thornton Tomasetti concluded that the stage rigging that toppled onto fans as high winds swept the fairgrounds ahead of a severe thunderstorm did not meet industry safety standards and that elements of that structure were grossly inadequate.
Witt Associates report found the tragedy was compounded by the absence of a fully developed emergency plan and an ambiguity of authority that resulted in confusion and uncertainty over who was in charge of public safety.
Gov. Mitch Daniels said in a statement after those reports were released that wed give anything to have that night over.
But its also now clear that most, if not all states, have been deficient in this area and have much to learn from this tragedy, Daniels said in a statement.
Digby said its true that many states have widely varying standards and inspection requirements for temporary structures and that such guidelines can vary even from city to city.
He said that reflects the origins of the entertainment industry as a self-regulating, self-governing, self-policing industry but its time for those patchwork of rules to be replaced with a coherent policy of best practices.
You dont go to an entertainment event expecting never to come home. Our goal is zero deaths, Digby said.