Know the Fundamentals: Risk Management in an Open Dynamic System Requires Anticipating and Preparing for Safety Failures on a Variety of Fronts

By Buschhoff, Christian A.; Fekete, Alexander | TD&T (Theatre Design & Technology), Fall 2016 | Go to article overview

Know the Fundamentals: Risk Management in an Open Dynamic System Requires Anticipating and Preparing for Safety Failures on a Variety of Fronts


Buschhoff, Christian A., Fekete, Alexander, TD&T (Theatre Design & Technology)


People have been convening at festivals or celebrations for centuries. These gatherings and events are a fixed custom and part of cultural identity, whether social, cultural, sports-related, or political. Attendees should rightfully assume they can move around an event area without hesitation and without self-protection (Starke, et al. 2006). However, this is only possible if the basic conditions of a safe gathering allow for it, including a high degree of creative/artistic liberty in the presentation, as well as the necessary infrastructure in the form of suitable town squares, buildings, streets, entrances and exits, etc.

The fundamental principle of visitor security stems from the protection of life and limb according to international law. It is based on Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations (1948): "Every individual has the right to life, freedom, and personal safety." Article 20 describes the right to peaceful assembly, while Article 27 describes participation in the cultural life of a given community: "Every individual has the right to participate in the cultural life of a given community, to indulge in the arts, and to partake in scientific progress and the achievements thereof."

The rights to personal freedom and safety and to participation in cultural life form the foundation of visitor security and must constantly be reevaluated and implemented for every format and every event. Every visitor must always be able to move freely, without risk or external influences, and of their own volition, within the visitor area (Experts-Group Event-Safety 2014).

Attendee safety is the top priority both for event organizers and safety authorities (police, emergency services, fire department, regulatory agencies, etc.). Because they are many and subject to dynamic change, the presentation and immediate environmental influences cannot be precisely predicted before, during, and after an event. This situation is referred to as an open dynamic system, in which the visitor plays a major role, and is unlike a technically closed system, which involves only plants, machines, devices, etc. An open (and) dynamic system can be categorized into three areas:

1. Creative/artistic freedom (an artist's behavior on the stage, a speaker's actions at a convention, etc.)

2. Environmental influences/factors (urbanity, weather, residents, flora and fauna, infrastructure, etc.)

3. Visitor behavior (collective behavior, guest flow, interactions with actions on the stage, etc.)

These three factors make a comprehensive assessment of event safety with classic risk management methods more difficult. Unforeseen disruptions may arise in all three areas, and the systems are largely dependent on each other in various ways. However, in order to make this system tangible from a technical security standpoint, it helps to follow the preventative principle of "better safe than sorry."

With prevention methods, it is possible to have a technical, professional impact on event security and to make events resistant, even downright resilient, against disruptions. These preventative considerations require that the safety goals were defined before the consideration was made.

The safety goal is a desired state of a protected good. This desired state should be preserved for the protected good in case of an occurrence (a disruption). The questions that must be considered within a security concept for events are:

* What should be protected against?

* What should be protected?

* To what extent should it be protected?

* How shall this goal be achieved? (Fekete 2012)

Defining the safety goals makes it possible to assess the remainder of the event with preventative measures. From an analytical perspective, prevention is initially an attempt to control the occurrence of a potential state. While in a narrower sense, prevention means that a potential version of the future is simply ruled out, the practical strategies of prevention often also mean the attempt to implement a specific version of the future (Ziegler). …

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