My first electronic dance music experience took place in a small, warehouse space called Club Industry. Located in Deep Ellum in Dallas, the venue was like a miniature version of the raves that would become popular in the mid-1990s. As my friends and I danced to the thump thump thump of industrial techno, laser lights shot across the room and dry ice bellowed between our legs. It was our great escape from the daily grind of high school life.
Looking at today’s electronic dance music festivals, it’s easy to see that the only change is one of size. Instead of 100 people dancing in a small room, there are 100,000 dancers in a large venue or under the open sky. And with that many people, safety and security has to take a front seat in the experience.
This weekend, December 27-28, the Kay Baily Hutchinson Convention Center Dallas will play host to Lights All Night, an electronic dance music festival featuring Deadmau5, Icona Pop, and Major Lazer, among others. The event is expected to draw 40,000 guests over the two days.
Planning for the event started in January, and life safety and security was one of the first items on the agenda. To better understand what took place in those meetings, we spoke with IAVM member, Al Rojas, assistant director for the Kay Baily Hutchinson Convention Center Dallas.
“The vetting process begins with an understanding of the event logistics and timeframe,” Rojas said. “It is the same for every event. The amount of life safety and security resources will be determined by the event history in the building and other locations. Law enforcement intelligence and event activity portrayed by the media also become factors to consider.”
Rojas said the event staff looks at previous show reports and interviews with venue staff. The 2012 event was held at Dallas Fair Park and Daniel Huerta (IAVM member) and his staff were very helpful in the planning process. They also interview the event’s promoters to determine estimated attendance, arrival pattern of attendees, and the flow of attendees in the event. In addition, meetings with Dallas Police, Dallas Fire & Rescue , and event security were conducted.
“There are basic building elements to consider, such as door coverage for ingress and egress, use of vertical transportation (elevators and escalators), public space, dock access for set-up, and other occurring events,” he said.
In fact, the action plan from the 2011 event and the “After Action Reports,” from 2011 and 2012 Rojas said, became the foundation for the 2013 plan.
“All parties were at common ground, and the process was one of evaluating previous results and factoring in new logistics and current lessons learned from the event industry,” he said.
We’ll be checking in more with Rojas about Lights All Night, so please stay tuned to this blog to learn best practices from venues hosting electronic dance music events.