Tuesday, July 31, 2012


Even theaters (and theatres) need a plan


The shooting rampage at a screening of "The Dark Knight Rises" in Colorado early Friday left theater owners and police scrambling to figure out how to beef up security for patrons as the movie opened in more than 4,000 theaters nationwide.

'Dark Knight' shooting leaves theaters scrambling to address security concerns (LA Times http://tinyurl.com/cucs3fd)

A media representative for Cinemark (the company that owns the theater) was unavailable to comment on last night’s violent outburst or on what measures the theater operator will take to ensure security going forward. Cinemark released a statement that it was "deeply saddened about this tragic incident."

'Dark Knight Rises' shooting raises security concerns (Pittsburgh Business Times http://tinyurl.com/bwscd7a)

The disaster in Aurora, CO, was not the first attack on an entertainment venue.

Not the first in the U.S. and not the first elsewhere in the world.

In other words, the attack was not a "black swan." It might be an ostrich since apparently people who run theaters and theatres and other such venues have acted like the proverbial ostrich and buried their heads in the sand to avoid the unpleasant possibility of a disaster occurring.

Why don't such places have risk management plans?

Could a risk management plan have prevented, or even mitigated, the event in Aurora?

What could have been done and at what cost both to the owner of the facility and to the customers?

Perhaps the first thing to consider is what made this night different from all other nights?

In a word, costumes. People came dressed - and masked - as characters from the film.

The "Dark Knight Rises" is but one of several fantasy flicks that draw costumed clients. Star Trek and Star Wars films also bring out the costumes; I'm certain there are others. (Would anyone really dress up as the Creature from the Black Lagoon? Probably.)

The bottom line for theater owners is that costumed customers are a recurring threat.

People who own or manage entertainment venues need to have risk plans in place for a multitude of possibilities - everything from a power failure to a fire or other occurrence requiring quick evacuation of the premises. How to notify the "house" without causing panic.

Someone "going postal" and wildly firing into a mass of people should be easier to prevent. Check for weapons at the door.

Given the draw of a "Dark Knight Rises" the cost of a metal detector borrowed from the local airport or extra ushers with metal detecting wands - with armed police in the near vicinity - would seem a reasonable expense. The mere presence of these tools probably would deter all the most determined shooter - or bomber.

True, it is a "sad state of affairs" to have to install metal detectors at the door of an entertainment venue, but it is a state of affairs we have reached and one we as risk management practitioners must recommend.

What happened at the movie house in Aurora could have happened anywhere.

In a church, mosque, synagogue, or other place of worship.

In a stadium or other sports venue.

At a school, particularly at any event where students congregate.

At a concert hall.

At Times Square on New Years' Eve.

And of course at the "ubiquitous other" location not listed above.

No place where masses of people congregate can be excluded from the possibilities.

As risk management practitioners we need to consider all the probabilities:

Why an attack - what is there that could prompt someone to "go off the deep end"?

What weapon(s) would be used - what is commonly available locally and what can a person with Internet access learn to do with it; the Muir Building was brought down by a simple, albeit huge, made-in-a-garage bomb.

What can be done to detect potential weapons?

How far in advance of an event should security be ramped up - is one day enough?

Then there is the response should the threat materialize, with protecting the innocent the first priority.

Creating a risk management program for an entertainment venue is basically the same as creating a program for any organization. The risks and response may be unique to the organization, but the approach to the program will be the same.

It's time that owners and managers of entertainment venues realized they, too, need a risk management plan and all the things (training, exercises) that go with it.

If I wrote it, you may quote it.

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