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On Sunday 21st November in Waukesha, Wisconsin a celebration was taking place in the form of their annual Christmas Parade. However, just minutes later the celebration turned into chaos and panic as a lone individual started ploughing through the crowds of people at speeds of 40 mph. Killing 5 people and injuring more than 40 adults and children which included some of the marching band and dance troupes. When we think of vehicles being used as a weapon, we instantly think of terrorism. This is a technique used by extremist groups to create maximum damage in a short amount of time… but the motive for this incident was different.

The perpetrator, Darrell Brookes was fleeing a domestic stabbing incident that had occurred before the crash, however, sources say he wasn’t being pursued by anyone or law enforcement. Now the question is, how did he manage to get down the street where the parade was being held? Surely there were security measures put in place to prevent this situation from happening. There were barriers put in place as visual deterrents, for law abiding citizens to turn around and choose an alternative route. However, in reality these barriers can easily be driven through at force, nudged out of the way with a vehicle, or even moved manually in order to gain unauthorised access.

  • Accidental incidents are becoming more and more likely in open spaces, especially with COVID-19 and the getting out more due to being locked down for months at a time during 2020 and 2021. Concerts and parks are facing more visitors which potentially could led to dangerous situations. Just last month, at the AstroWorld festival, whilst Travis Scott was performing, an influx of people broke through the perimeter fencing within the VIP areas, letting in more people than their 50,000-capacity limit. According to the Independent, “People were hopping turnstiles and fences to enter the sold-out festival without tickets – which led to a crowd size organisers were unprepared for and overwhelming medical units.” Fans were being crushed and trampled on as more ticketless guests piled into the venue, with some concertgoers escaping by climbing up speaker towers. This incident saw 10 people die that night, with the youngest being just 10 years old and with many more seriously injured.

  • So, why did this happen during this open space event? The main cause to the mass injury that occurred was the failure of the perimeter security fencing. From videos circulated on social media, you can clearly see that the perimeter security used was a tubular chain link system with zero sign of ballast to hold up against crowd loading. With no ballast to keep the fencing vertical, the system is pretty much defenceless against crowds and will eventually fail. This was the biggest mistake made for the AstroWorld festival; choosing inadequate physical security which led to hundreds of individuals getting through and putting pressure on the already large crowds.

    Many people when visiting concerts, Christmas Markets, or parades, now unfortunately are more aware of the dangers that terrorism can bring especially within large groups and mass gatherings… However, a lot of the time these visitors don’t think about accidental incidents. No one goes to a concert and actively anticipates a surge of people or goes to a parade and watches out for a rouge car ploughing down the street. They expect to be protected from these situations, through effectively deployed temporary fencing and HVM solutions. The right equipment should be used for the job and many times it’s not, it’s the cheapest option available.

So, does saving money really come before saving lives? No, it shouldn’t, but it so often does. Temporary fences for some sites are merely a visual deterrent that most of the time don’t work, with people picking them up to move them out of the way. Temporary fencing should be as strong as permanent systems, giving visitors peace of mind that they’re safe whilst enjoying themselves.

Cheaper physical security is being used for open spaces and events to cut costs and save money, but like discussed this is now at the cost of someone’s life instead. Event organisers need to start taking perimeter protection responsibilities and use effective safety measures to meet the level of threats they could potentially experience.

If you want to learn more about how we should be protecting people in open spaces, then head over and listen to our podcast episode where Stewart Plant, our Director of Marketing discusses this topic in detail here.

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