Astroworld Report Leads to Finger-Pointing Over Jurisdiction and Blame for Tragedy

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Travis Scott‘s Astroworld festival, where 10 attendees died last November, suffered from permitting issues and insufficient training for security, according to a report released Tuesday by the Texas Task Force on Concert Safety (TFCS).

The task force, which was created by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to investigate the tragedy and make policy recommendations, concluded that establishing standardized safety procedures could help prevent a similar mass casualty event from happening in the future.

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Released five months after the tragedy, the report highlights a confusing web of permitting power over events like Astroworld. Harris County should have had permitting jurisdiction over NRG Park, the report says, but the county issued no permits and it was the city’s 911 service that was in charge of responding to event incidents. There was also no capacity limit issued for the festival, which is typically handled by the fire department, the report said. The Houston Chronicle has reported that the city of Houston approved all permits for Astroworld.

“A consistent permitting process could have helped established jurisdiction and authority over ultimate event shutdown in the face of a life-threatening incident,” the report reads. It goes on to state that sheriffs and county judges (who are responsible for issuing these permits in their areas) serving on the TFCS shared “that many event promoters are not aware of the permit requirements, while others intentionally falsify applications or ignore the process all together.”

In a statement provided to Houston Chronicle on Wednesday, Harris County Fire Marshal Laurie L. Christensen stated, “The fact the Astroworld event occurred within the City of Houston along with the (memorandum of understanding) between Harris County and the City of Houston clearly shows Harris County lacked any jurisdiction for permitting the Astroworld event.”

While NRG Park is owned by Harris County, the entertainment campus is located within the City of Houston, which has stifled clarification about jurisdiction.

The report, which was led by Texas Music Office (TMO) director Brendon Anthony and submitted to Gov. Abbott, notes that the TMO has released an online Event Production Guide so as to centralize information around permitting guidelines and the penalties for not complying with them.

Acting as a promoter for an outdoor music festival without adequate permitting is a criminal offense in Texas, with penalties ranging from $1,000 in fines to 90 days in jail. TFCS recommends the implementation of a universal permitting template that would help clarify the murky permitting process across the state and serve as a “floor, not a ceiling,” allowing local permit issuers to add information relevant to the area and type of event.

The report also calls on the need for Unified Command and Control (UCC) at large-scale events. The ultimate function of a centralized on-site command and control group is to establish authority and process for pausing or canceling a show in response to a safety incident such as crowd or weather concerns.

Triggers for pausing or canceling an event must be outlined in a permit application beforehand and representatives with 911 and the production team with “show-stop” authority must be present at all times, the report adds.

Additionally, the report states that public and contracted security and event staff must have adequate training for each specific event, including walkthrough drills, security briefings, clear communication trees and agreed-upon show-stop triggers.

Included in the TMO Event Production Guide are also best practices for manufactured events – i.e. those without pre-established structures like the NRG Stadium parking lot where Astroworld was held. The best practices lay out the best ways to avoid non-ticketed fans from breaching barricades and helps outline ways to prevent overcrowding and emergency exits.

The TFCS consists of safety experts, law enforcement, firefighters, state agencies, music industry leaders and others. In the process of drafting the report, the TMO invited participation by established experts in the fields of concert promotion, public safety, first response and government permitting, including representatives from Events Safety Alliance, C3 Presents, the International Association of Venue Managers (IAVM), Houston Professional Firefighters Association, Music World Entertainment Corporation and more.

A criminal investigation into Astroworld by the Houston Police Department is still ongoing. In December, the U.S. House Committee on Oversight & Reform also launched an investigation into Live Nation’s role in the deadly Astroworld music festival, saying it has “serious concerns” that not enough was done to prevent the tragedy.

The full report can be read here.

Additional reporting by Dave Brooks.

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