Guest Feature: Allison Fitts
Back of House Guest Posts feature some of our favorite people from across the industry sharing their expertise. If you would like to be featured in a future issue, or know someone who would, email us at email@example.com.
This week's BOH Headliner is written by Allison Fitts, an event professional based in Colorado with 7+ years of experience in the live music industry, whose areas of expertise include site operations, tour production, artist relations, travel logistics and safety & security. After starting out on the venue side of things in college, Fitts moved on to work full-time for festival company KAABOO, LLC, helping put on large scale festivals in San Diego and the Cayman Islands. In non-COVID times, Fitts tours with an internationally-renowned electronic artist and project manages for Los Angeles' new Virgin Fest.
If you have been following along with Back of House throughout the pandemic like I have, then you will know that safety has been a major focus of nearly every issue. It makes sense. The world is dealing with an unprecedented health crisis, while our industry is seeing all-too-well how it will impact us moving forward. Safety for fans, crews and artists alike will also be my focus today, but not as COVID-specific as you may have gotten used to hearing about these past several months.
On October 1, 2017, I was sitting at McCarran International Airport about to board a red-eye flight to the Cayman Islands for the initial site visit of a festival I was helping to organize there. If you recognize that date, you will know the news that our flight and the world woke up to. Fifty-eight people had been killed at the Route 91 Harvest Festival. It was beyond devastating and the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.
Something changed for me that day. The live music industry had been targeted. This was my industry. This was the industry of all my friends who I work with and love. This was the industry that just five months earlier was devastated by the Manchester Arena bombing. This made a mass shooting hit closer to home than ever before. I was personally determined to learn anything and everything I could in regards to public safety at events from then on out.
I have been lucky enough over the last several years to work with some of the leading safety minds in our industry. It is my belief that my particular path to gaining a better understanding of public safety is not the most crucial thing to share with you. Many steps I took and lessons I learned were very specific to the roles I was in and the events I was working. What I do think is crucial, though, is highlighting simple knowledge and skill sets that all of us can learn to better protect ourselves and our events, whether or not the words ‘safety’ or ‘security’ are in our job titles.
Stop the Bleed Training - Developed by the Committee on Trauma and the American College of Surgeons in the wake of Sandy Hook, this often free course focuses on what non-medically trained bystanders can do to slow an injured person’s bleeding until professional help can arrive at the scene. Utilizing these skills in response to a mass shooting at an event is likely your first thought to this training’s usefulness, but consider the wider scope. A fan who slips on that beer-soaked venue floor and hits their head or a crew member who gets pinned under some rigging during load-in would just as readily be benefitted by you being nearby and able to render aid. Find and sign up for a course near you by going to BleedingControl.org. I took the course last month. It took two hours and was offered virtually.
First Aid/CPR/AED Certification - It’s not just for teenagers with summer lifeguarding jobs! The Red Cross offers thorough training in basic first aid skills, including CPR instruction and automated external defibrillator use. Obtaining this certification can help in situations that occur much more often than my example of a mass shooting from above. The artists, crews and fans at our events bring their health histories and pre-existing medical conditions with them when they come. Get certified and be able to help in a situation where a patron with asthma can no longer breath or an artist with heart troubles has a cardiac event. These are just a couple of instances where your skills could be put to use. This knowledge will benefit you and others in infinite situations that could happen at our events. Go to RedCross.org to find a class near you. Courses are a couple of hours and typically cost between $50 and $80.
Bystander Intervention Training - Primarily used as a sexual assault and harassment prevention strategy, bystander intervention is not taught by one governing body. Instead, organizations like Hollaback! and Step UP!, as well as hundreds of non-profit organizations locally across the country, have developed their own takes on the same basic principles. Essentially, learning how to intervene as a bystander means gaining the skills necessary to prevent harassment of any kind when you witness it. Whether you are distracting (interrupting a situation), directing (seeking help from appropriate authority) or directly intervening, you can help protect those around you at events. With the help of a local sexual assault prevention organization, I trained the entire staff of a festival I was a part of in these tactics. From positive feedback I received, I know that this training helped prevent at least one assault, which for me made it totally worth it and I have no doubt the same would be said for your venue or crew if you conducted your own training.
When live events are able to fully come back in a safe, COVID-mitigating way, there will be a renewed focus on event safety. Beyond the temperature checks and contact tracing specific to COVID safety, we will all be expected to uphold the highest standards for protecting people at our events from all possible hazards, COVID or otherwise. Using this unexpected downtime to sharpen your skills in Stop the Bleed, First Aid and Bystander Intervention will make events happier and healthier places to be, something we will all be craving after this year.