This is a multi-part series on JimOnLight.com on what to do if someone comes into your gig shooting at you. This is by no means the answer, or even an answer. Every situation is different, everything that can go wrong will go wrong (as we all know in Entertainment alone), and the information and interviews here are meant solely to help you be less unprepared. Very few of us out there in the field have the kind of training that it actually takes to combat people who are hell bent on killing us. This article series is just meant to give you things to think about in order to put your head in the game. Use this information at your own risk and with steadfast understanding that if you’re attacked at a gig, it is you who will be responsible for you.
Folks, that’s real talk right there without saying a word. I want to make sure that you know how real this shit really is. Our “western society” was attacked on Friday the 13th, November 2015 in Paris. over a hundred people lost their lives in an instant or two by some coward Daesh ISIS terrorists, most of whom are dead now with one still on the run as of 15:41, November 18. They came into a concert hall with a concert going on, killed crew and audience, indiscriminately.
In Part 1 of this series about protecting yourself at a gig, we talked with Patrick Dierson about what he thought was the most important points to be discussed, and more than anything he says that, when you’re attacked at work, the most important thing to do is to GET OUT OF THERE AS FAST AS POSSIBLE, and to take as many people with you as you can get. Very good advice, I say. I also reached out to two people who have had major influences in my life — my grad student lighting studio supervisor at The Ohio State University Matt Hazard, who was involved in Marine Intelligence back in Serbia and Croatia when Milosevic was douchebagging around the region indiscriminately killing people (and is himself a hell of a lighting tech and designer), and production designer Rick Reeves, who was with Navy Security teams during the Iraq wars, having been a member of CENTCOM and MNF-I. Both of these men have seen combat. Neither of them recommend sticking around when the bullets are flying.
Just to kind of paraphrase what Patrick Dierson said in Part 1 before we move on to hear what Matt Hazard and Rick Reeves had to say… If the shit hits the fan:
- Get behind something quickly
- Don’t get shot
- Get outta there, and take people with you.
- Don’t be a hero. Don’t PLAY a hero either, you might get yourself shot.
- Leave your gun at home, or keep your gun in your pants and get the hell out.
- Also, GET OUT OF THERE
This is Matt Hazard; Matt helped me learn that I had it within me to suck it the fuck up on a few occasions. He’s the Lighting Studio Manager at The Ohio State University, he was my “drill sergeant” when I was in graduate school. Well, really Mary Tarantino was both of our drill sergeant, but she’s tough all on her own. Hazard was a Recon Marine who served in Kosovo when Milosevic was douchebagging around the region indiscriminately killing people (and is himself one hell of an ETCP-certified lighting tech, AND designer).
“Matt, thanks a lot for this, and for talking to me about such a distressing thing. I have to ask you up front — what do you see when you see the photo aftermath of this mess?”
“I’m guessing that FOH was in the back on the floor. That’s my guess from looking at all of the attached pics. If the fuckers with AKs came in the back of the floor, the FOH would have been one of the first things they saw. The Twitter shot from the balcony looks like it might show the FOH in the bottom left of the pic. Pretty gruesome pic, that venue reminds of the Newport here in Columbus [Ohio].”
“I’m trying to think what I’d do in that situation. Most likely, you have zero time to react. If crazy fuckers come in, they’ve likely blown by or shot the security staff to gain access. If when they got to the floor and the first people they saw were the FOH ops, then that might have been where they began — I am entirely speculating here. The first reaction would probably be incredible surprise: what am I looking at? A guy with an AK-47? It’s just not something you expect to see at a concert. Loud noises are common place, although when the rounds begin cracking off, it would certainly stand out. I read that the band heard the shots and headed backstage. I think that is the natural reaction: seek cover and don’t get shot. Unfortunately, at a typical FOH, there’s not a whole lot of room to hide.”
“Where do you think the responsibility for security lies in our shows? Are we at at a point where we should be concerned with handling firearms as part of our kit? Is that just stupid?”
“Three summers ago, I had to help eject a guy from the FOH tent here in Columbus at an outdoor Skrillex show, I was hanging with the crew. The promoters had not provided any sort of barrier or security for the FOH tent, and people were pushing up on it the entire show. I kept an eye on the guy because his behavior was not what it should be. He eventually got pissed at the sound guy who kept telling him to back off and punched him. I grabbed his arms and pushed him out, but there was no security or police to take the idiot away.”
“Drunk idiots are an entirely different ball game from what happened in Paris. I’m not sure if there is anything that could have been done to protect the tech staff at the venue. Speculation is difficult as is asking yourself, ‘what would I have done?’ If you did have a gun and you did have the training, it is possible that you could have recognized the threat and fought back. Will venues hire armed security guards if they think they might be targeted? I’m not sure how many venues would condone their operators carrying weapons.”
“Something else to thing about,” Hazard adds, “We had a concert shooting here in Columbus years ago, at Alrosa Villa… Five people were killed, including the gunman. One was a performer on stage, one was a club security guard, another was a club employee, and the final was a patron. It’s a much different story with a much different outcome, but it shows that public places are simply vulnerable targets. Keep your head up when you’re out.”
Anything else you can think of to add?
“The main thing I want to convey is that the folks who work shows a lot will probably notice things, people, behavior that is out of the ordinary. But even with that, you just cannot be prepared for everything and anything and the crazy fuckers.”
I asked Rick Reeves the same questions, same results. Rick is a production designer, quite talented with projection, and is known to do some lighting here and there, or actually every day since he’s back in grad school after working at the famous OU in Norman, Oklahoma where I met him, shaping minds, eating burritos, drinking margaritas. This was Rick back in his service days:
I asked Rick the three questions, but Rick is also a good friend, so I tended to be a bit more to the point and he replied as such.
Rick. What do you think would happen if production crew started arming themselves? Would this lead to a huge game of who can be the biggest cowboy?
“Cowboys? There is no room in the world of an active shooter (terrorist) attack for cowboys. ISIS does not pick these guys up off of the street on the way to an attack and give them a gun, they go to terrorist boot camp. Do you know what they learn at terrorist boot camp? How to kill YOU. They people that are carrying out these attacks are highly trained individuals, probably with decent weaponry. If you have no, or little, training, get out of Dodge. You will not win. I don’t care if you have a weapon or not, your primary goal should be to get out, or stay out of the line of fire.
Also, these guys will probably have automatic weapons and the best you will have is a handgun. A handgun is no match for an automatic weapon, you will lose.”
Jesus. That is right to the point, my friend.
“This is no game. These people are trained and led by their fierce ideology.”
How do I even begin to think like you? What goes in your head when you enter a building considering the training you have?
“My protective service training puts me in the habit of knowing what two exits are available to me at all times. When you walk into a building for the first time, remember how to get out, and then find a second way out. This isn’t just good for terrorists, but for fires. It can help keep you alive. SO, KNOW TWO EXITS. Also, the biggest thing to do in any situation is to keep calm. Panic causes people to make mistakes. Minimize panic and you will minimize your mistakes.”
What would you do if you heard some gunshots all of the sudden in the theatre, or the arena, you know? What if someone starts shooting up the gig? What’s the first objective?
“If you confirm gunshots, your objective should be to get to one of those exits you remembered with the least amount of resistance. If you can help people move the same direction, do so. But there is no sense in risking your life at this point. If you cannot safely exit the area, find cover and do NOT attract attention to yourself. Don’t rush, but exit when you are able, but until then, HIDE!”
Is there any room for heroism in these situations, or is that just some thinking that would get more of us killed?
“The only way I am going to be a hero is if I am guaranteed success AND it is for sure going to get me laid. Both big ifs. Once you are safe, call 911 or whatever emergency service you can. Know the emergency number for the country you are in, everyone doesn’t use 911.”
Can you share any advice on watching the crowd or things that might look out of place? Is this just a common sense thing?
“People up to no good look uncomfortable. When you are waiting for the show to start, people watch. Who looks uncomfortable, who looks out of place? If it is 90 degrees outside and there is a guy with a big coat on? Big question marks go off in my head. It won’t be that obvious because terrorists are smart and train on blending in, so spotting a bad guy before they do something bad is not easy.”
You know me, you know I love my guns. Help me dispel the bullshit about being a hero at a gig — what can you say to those of us who have concealed carry permits and some training?
“I cannot stress to you enough that these guys are not stupid.
They want to kill you.
They train to kill you.
They have no other goals past this attack.
YOU don’t want to kill anyone.
YOU are not trained to kill anyone. (Maybe to shoot at a paper target, but not kill)
YOU have a lifetime of goals past this attack.
There is one exception: If you have a gun that you can get out without being noticed, and there is a bad guy 7 feet in front of you with his back to you, and you KNOW you cannot miss from 7 feet, shoot him. Then take all of the rest of the advice I gave you.”
ITEMS OF NOTE – THINGS TO LEARN
EMERGENCY PHONE CODES IN NON-UNITED STATES COUNTRIES
Matt and Rick, I cannot thank you guys enough for both your service, and for sharing your thoughts.
Rick mentioned knowing the EMERGENCY CODES for different countries abroad — so I found that the State Department actually publishes this document! Here’s a link to that document — 911_ABROAD. [Direct PDF link when you click]
ACTIVE SHOOTER TRAINING
Funny enough, this is actually available through FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Administration):
The Department of Homeland Security offers Active Shooter information:
Also — a PDF [direct PDF link] on Active Shooter Preparedness and Situational Awareness that you can print out and keep in your show minder from now on, really:
A few excerpts from the brochure on Active Shooter Situations – and the potential shooters themselves
Employees [or concertgoers/theatregoers] typically do not just “snap,” but display indicators of potentially violent behavior over time. If these behaviors are recognized, they can often be managed and treated. Potentially violent behaviors by an employee may include one or more of the following (this list of behaviors is not comprehensive, nor is it intended as a mechanism for diagnosing violent tendencies):
- Increased use of alcohol and/or illegal drugs
- Unexplained increase in absenteeism; vague physical complaints
- Noticeable decrease in attention to appearance and hygiene
- Depression / withdrawal
- Resistance and overreaction to changes in policy and procedures
- Repeated violations of company policies
- Increased severe mood swings
- Noticeably unstable, emotional responses
- Explosive outbursts of anger or rage without provocation
- Suicidal; comments about “putting things in order”
- Behavior which is suspect of paranoia, (“everybody is against me”)
- Increasingly talks of problems at home
- Escalation of domestic problems into the workplace; talk of severe financial problems
- Talk of previous incidents of violence
- Empathy with individuals committing violence
- Increase in unsolicited comments about firearms, other dangerous weapons and violent crimes
Your human resources department and facility managers should engage in planning for emergency situations, including an active shooter scenario. Planning for emergency situations will help to mitigate the likelihood of an incident by establishing the mechanisms described below.
Human Resources – [should also fall to venue and promoter liability] Responsibilities:
- Conduct effective employee screening and background checks
- Create a system for reporting signs of potentially violent behavior
- Make counseling services available to employees
- Develop an EAP which includes policies and procedures for dealing with an active shooter situation, as well as after action planning Facility Manager Responsibilities
- Institute access controls (i.e., keys, security system pass codes)
- Distribute critical items to appropriate managers / employees, including: – Floor plans – Keys – Facility personnel lists and telephone numbers
- Coordinate with the facility’s security department to ensure the physical security of the location
- Assemble crisis kits containing: – radios – floor plans – staff roster, and staff emergency contact numbers – first aid kits – flashlights
- Place removable floor plans near entrances and exits for emergency responders
- Activate the emergency notification system when an emergency situation occurs
Reactions of Managers During an Active Shooter Situation:
- Employees and customers are likely to follow the lead of managers during an emergency situation.
- During an emergency, managers should be familiar with their EAP, and be prepared to:
* Take immediate action
* Remain calm
* Lock and barricade doors
* Evacuate staff and customers via a preplanned evacuation route to a safe area
Sounds pretty similar huh? GET OUT OF THERE, AS CALMLY AND QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE. AND DON’T GET SHOT BEING A HERO.
The FBI, for example, has put out a video called RUN, HIDE, FIGHT: Surviving an Active Shooter Event:
If you watched that video, you’d know that our Federal Bureau of Investigation says to RUN THE FUCK AWAY first. If you can’t do that safely, then HIDE YOURSELF AND OTHERS. If all else fails and you’re concealed but the gunman or gunmen is coming to kill you, FIGHT TO THE DEATH TO INCAPACITATE THAT BASTARD or BASTARDS.
We need to talk to Grimey about some stuff now. Matt and Rick, thank you for your service and for being Entertainment Industry players!