Can Lighting Save Lives From Active Shooters? Vigil in Bangkok, Thailand after Orlando shooting. Photo: Dario Pignatelli, Getty Images.

Can Lighting Save Lives From Active Shooters?

In the wake of tragic events, such as the attack at the Bataclan concert hall in Paris on November 13, 2015 and the recent shooting at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida on June 12, many are asking what precautions can be taken to prevent such events and save lives. The entertainment technology and design industry is talking about possible safety protocols that could be applied to venues such as theatres, concert halls, nightclubs, and more.

Washington D.C.-based lighting designer Kathryn Blair posted in a Facebook group the morning of the Orlando shooting, asking the industry to brainstorm ideas, potentially at LDI Tradeshow and Conference, on how lighting can "save lives and possibly hinder shooters," according to PBS NewsHour. A lighting designer/director/technician often controls the lighting from a booth elevated above the crowd and is more likely to see if something is wrong before most of the patrons below.

Can lighting be used as a tool to warn people or highlight escape routes in the event of an active shooter?

Safety is always a concern, and the entertainment industry has already taken steps to keeping patrons safe in the event of an emergency, from fires to natural disasters with ordinances enforced with such standards as the National Fire Protection Association’s Life Safety Code and the National Electrical Code, as well as complying with the Americans With Disabilities Act. Theatres also have the option of ALICE training, a form of active shooter training that many schools have adopted.

After the Orlando shooting, Event Safety Alliance—founded by Linkin Park production manager Jim Digby in 2011 after a stage collapse at Indiana State Fair caused seven deaths—released a statement about possible security measures during active shooter situations. The ESA suggested the following ideas: Run, Hide, Fight; crowd manager training; licensed security guards performing bag checks and pat-downs; hand-held or walk-through magnetometers; Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design or CPTED; and more.

Read the ESA's important statement about security measures against active shooters in-depth.

Austin, Texas-based production electrician Richard Cadena told PBS NewsHour, “The debate is, if you go to [full house lights], you might be helping the active shooter by illuminating his targets. But if you have a blackout, you might be harming the patrons’ ability to exit the building,” he said. “I don’t think there’s a definitive answer to that.”

In response to Blair's Facebook post about brainstorming solutions, Michael Friedline, lighting designer and owner of TFG Event Support Services, pointed out that the “house lighting [switch] might be some place accessible to the technical crew, or it might be down a hallway almost half a block away."

Blair suggested a panic button, programmed with a standardized set of lighting cues, so that an automated warning can alert everyone while allowing the person who pushed the alarm to seek safety. 

Read the full story from PBS NewsHour here.

Safety is a collaborative effort. Please brainstorm and share your ideas of possible security measures that can protect lives from active shooters.

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