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Concert Safety Tips: What to Do in Case of an Attack, According to Experts

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Every time a terrorist or active shooter attacks a music event — from “>Israel’s Supernova Sukkot Festival invasion on Oct. 7 to the 2017 massacre at the Route 91 Harvest music festival in Las Vegas — police, promoters and venues pledge to improve concert security by adding things like metal detectors, bomb-sniffing dogs and even facial-recognition technology. And while it’s impossible to fully protect venues against gunmen with Kalashnikovs or organized terrorist strikes, three crowd-safety experts told Billboard how fans can help protect themselves in the event of an attack:

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— Charge your phone – and consider bringing a portable charger to festivals. “It makes a difference,” advises Nicholas Dawe, fire marshal for Cobb County, Ga., which encompasses Atlanta. “You need a phone to connect with your friends.”  

— Use the buddy system. “Keep up with somebody. Watch each other’s backs,” Dawe says. “It’s easy to lose someone, especially nowadays. Four eyes is better than two.” 

Study the venue in advance. Track down a map and go over the sometimes detailed official safety precautions. “When I go to a venue, one of the first things I do is look at where my exits are, and possibly the secondary and maybe even a third exit,” says Howard Levinson, owner of Expert Security Consulting in Norton, Mass.

— Envision an escape route on-site. In an emergency, Levinson says, having a mental escape plan could save your life: “It might be smoke, it might be a situation [where] the lights are out. You picture what it would be like if you couldn’t see, if you had to go on your hands and knees and crawl out.” 

— “If you see something, say something.” It’s a cliche, and you might feel uncomfortable eavesdropping and reporting suspicious strangers, but this is standard anti-terrorism advice for large events, posted prominently on official websites for Austin City Limits, Bonnaroo, the City of Chicago and elsewhere. “Telling your friends is not a good idea,” Dawe says. “Say something to security and police personnel.” 

— Keep your faculties. It’s hard to avoid weed-smoking and beer-drinking at shows, but avoid getting so blotto that you can’t clear your head and figure out what’s going on during a crisis. “I know it’s not the coolest thing to say, but it does impact how you perceive the circumstance,” Dawe says. “Being alert is pretty much your best option.” 

— In a pinch, look for a fire extinguisher. It can be a self-defense weapon. “If somebody is coming for you, before you lock yourself in a closet, an extinguisher could temporarily blind people to possibly allow yourself to escape and overtake them,” Levinson says. 

— Flee. Steven Adelman, vice president of the Event Safety Alliance, a concert-industry group of promoters and security experts that puts out a free crowd-management guide, reels off a macabre list of tragedies, from Columbine to Sandy Hook to the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., and gives one word of advice: “Evacuate.” Then he adds: “Quickly.” Just as if there’s a lightning storm at an outdoor event. “We live in harm’s way — when we go to school or an entertainment event or a supermarket or a church,” he says. “What can people do? Be prepared to run.”

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