Recent attacks on innocent civilians around the world are a sobering reminder to revisit security at large-scale events, including air shows. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has stated that the most impactful effort that can be made by administrators of large events is to increase the quantity and accessibility of communication avenues for all persons at an event. Often, successfully averting a disaster hinges on quickly responding to information through open channels of communication. Therefore, it is critical to encourage ALL persons at an air show — performers, support service providers, show staff and especially spectators — to speak up if they witness any suspicious activity. Everyone should be encouraged by the wisdom passed down by the FBI: If you see something, say something.
The FBI encourages producers of events such as air shows to coordinate with state and local law enforcement to review security needs specific to their events. The best resources in law enforcement are those with intimate knowledge of the local demands placed on air show event organizers, and the local law enforcement personnel are encouraged by the federal government to reach out and work with event organizers to identify security gaps. So, take advantage of this opportunity before your show to review your security plan with the first responders in your area to analyze what you are doing well and to identify areas for improvement.
The simple phrase “if you see something, say something,” can be applied to much more than security in our business. It is our collective responsibility to report our concerns to a party that can take the necessary action to intervene before a suspicion becomes a tragedy. This proverb applies to more than just suspicious backpacks or bags. It applies to the person that knows their fellow performer had a long night or an early morning, or to the person that notices a liquid underneath a parked aircraft that should not be there. It applies to the person that identifies a conflict with the air show schedule that puts undue stress on a performer. It applies to the person that sees clumps of dead, dry grass throughout the parking lot and recognizes them as fire hazard. It applies to everyone that sees anything out of the ordinary that gives them cause for concern. It is then the duty of all of us to ensure that there is a mechanism in place for people with concerns to have their concerns heard quickly by a person with the authority to act in a manner that would negate the concern.
There are countless ways to address almost any area of concern without making accusations or pointing fingers. But making a personal commitment to say something when we see something is probably the single most important thing we can do to improve safety and security in the air show industry.