PANEL: ‘The 3 Rs: Reaction, Response & Recovery’
Chair Carl AH Martin opened panel #4 by asking Coralie Berael, manager of Brussels’ 8,000-cap. Forest National arena, to relate her experience of the days following the attack on the Bataclan, when suspected perpetrator Abdelhamid Abaaoud/Salah Abdeslam were believed to have been hiding out in Brussels and still looking for an opportunity to commit a fatal act.
“We’d had crisis meetings with local authorities to assure everyone we’d taken the necessary measures to be able to put on the concert we had that evening, Rudimental,” she explained. “We had armed police officers and the army in and outside the venue, alongside the usual G4S venue security…
“One hour into ingress we were told by the chief of police, ‘Get yourselves ready because there could be an attack somewhere in Brussels tonight and we think it could be meant for your venue so we might have to evacuate at some point’. Together we agreed it was fine to continue with the show, but he advised us to increase the pace and get people in the venue as quick as we could.
Entrances were limited, access roads were blocked with police and army vehicles and despite a call for evacuation 20 minutes before the end of the show, Forest National chose to wait to avoid panic.
“We discussed it with police and our head of security – we all agreed to share the responsibility and made sure people left as quickly as possible, Berael said”
The result, she said, was that “only when they [the audience] got home did they realise Brussels was in complete lockdown which lasted a week; the next four shows were cancelled, schools were closed for days there was no public transport running”.
Talk then turned to the topic of a perceived lack of qualified security staff – something discussed in relation to the UK earlier in the day – with Rock am Ring’s Martin Reitmaier and Berael revealing a similar problem also exists in Germany and Belgium, respectively.
Speaking from the audience, The O2’s Richard Latham urged venues to be mindful of the way they treat security staff. “The days when you could treat security badly are behind us,” he said. “There’s an undersupply in the market – and they can vote with their feet.”
From an insurance brokers’ perspective, said Integro’s Chris Jones, venues would wish to see security and other staff appropriately trained and briefed to feel “empowered” to make a decision in the event of an incident, but stressed the importance of keeping all paperwork for the inevitable insurance claim. “We want all documentation and logs relating to the event to be recorded for insurance purposes,” he explained. “Even for small and medium events that suffer incidents involving injury or a fatality, they will be under pressure to produce evidence of safety policies, risk-assessment forms, witness statements, photographic evidence…”
He also spoke of the need for a communicative relationship between events, insurance brokers and the underwriter. “Trust and understanding is key,” he said.
Reitmaier added that open dialogue between all parties especially with the authorities involved in putting on an event is essential. “In Munich, with the Stones, the authorities were telling us, ‘the police know what they’re doing, don’t worry about it’.” My impression is that for some events, especially irregular ones [like festivals or greenfield open air events], we’re not all working together and talking to each other as much as it would be necessary.”
“In an ideal world everybody (authorities, promoter, staff, securities, partners and all guests) would have the right information at the right time to take the right decision.
Communication is what it’s all about.”
A selection of photos from 10 October 2017 are available to view here.