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Texas task force: Universal permitting standard could prevent tragedy like Astroworld

Kelsey Bradshaw
Austin 360

In response to deaths at last year's Astroworld Festival, a state task force on Tuesday recommended that Texas create a universal event permitting process and promoters increase safety planning

Ten people were fatally injured and hundreds of others were hurt during artist Travis Scott's Nov. 5 set at the Houston festival. The crowd at the concert, which included people without tickets who breached the festival's entrance, surged during Scott's show, causing some to become trapped.

Gov. Greg Abbott formed the Texas Task Force on Concert Safety in response to the incident. The group sent its findings to Abbott on Tuesday and made the report available to the public via the Texas Music Office website.

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Travis Scott performs at the Astroworld Festival at NRG Park in Houston on Nov. 5. Ten people were fatally injured and hundreds of others were hurt in a crowd surge during his set.

Abbott said in a statement Nov. 10 that the task force was meant "to ensure that the tragedy that occurred at the Astroworld Festival never happens again."

Scoremore Productions, founded in Austin and a subsidiary of Live Nation Concerts, hosted Scott's performance in a parking lot structure at NRG Stadium.

Concert, festival, venue, safety and law enforcement officials from all over the state took part in the task force, including representatives from South by Southwest and C3 Presents in Austin. Live Nation also has a controlling stake in C3 Presents. 

Here are some of the highlights from the task force's recommendations:

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Permit processes should be more consistent, the task force said.

Astroworld did not obtain the proper permits for its event, according to the official report.

The task force found that event permit requirements are inconsistent across the state, and some event officials don't bother to go through the official permitting processes. 

Event promoters also might not be aware of permit requirements, and others provide false information on applications, law enforcement officials on the task force said. The task force suggested the creation of a universal permitting template that would include a standardized checklist for county judges.

The task force also suggested making the public aware of permit requirements and penalties.

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Harris County had jurisdiction over permitting requirements for Astroworld, but Houston police and firefighters responded to the emergency situation at the event.

"A consistent permitting process could have helped established jurisdiction and authority over ultimate event shutdown in the face of a life-threatening event," the task force said in its report. 

The task force recommended Texas lawmakers consider increasing fines and penalties for permit noncompliance and repeat violations.

Events should have a designated on-site command group, the task force said.

The task force suggested all event officials form a group to be in charge of on-site operations at the event. The group should have the authority and a process to pause or cancel a show if needed, the task force said.

In event permit applications, organizers should have to outline "triggers" for pausing or canceling an event because of weather, according to the report. The command group could also be in charge of determining which public safety agencies would respond to an emergency ahead of the event.

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"Pre-show collaboration with these entities is needed to strengthen communication during a crisis," the task force wrote. 

Event organizers should better assess risk, the task force said.

Before an event, planners should identify possible hazards and corresponding responses, and they should have an established communication tree with local first responders, the report recommended.

Event officials should research each artist and check social media hashtags and artist accounts, the report said. Promoters on the task force recommended reaching out to venues that have hosted the artists before to see what they're like.

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"Some artists have a documented history of encouraging attendees to disregard public safety. When an artist does this, it could be considered a breach of contract and come with responsibility for any damage to property and people," the task force wrote.

Partnering with artists to encourage safety could also be a useful tactic, the report recommended, because the artist could be "uniquely persuasive for fans."

The final point on the task force's report to Abbott was about having one spot for resources associated with event safety. Resource documents that the task force used to determine their findings now live on the Texas Music Office's website. An "event production guide" can be found online at gov.texas.gov.