At USITT 2018 in Fort Lauderdale, we sat down with Steven A. Adelman, Vice President of Event Safety Alliance to discuss safety and its importance in the industry.

Adelman and Event Safety Alliance are coming to USITT19 to offer two sessions based on safety, security, and how to stay clean in “muddy” situations. See how he got started in the safety realm of the live entertainment industry, and make sure to fit either or both of Event Safety Alliance’s sessions into your USITT19 schedule!

Read the full interview between Adelman and USITT Content Specialist Jenn Shuron below.

Jenn Shuron: Your law practice focuses a lot on risk management and litigation regarding safety at live events. Do you see an increased interest in safety and health? How do you see that manifesting itself?

Steven A. Adelman: Definitely, yes. There is a greatly increased level of interest in health and safety at live events. Unfortunately, it seems to be driven by tragic incidents that capture the headlines and people’s imagination.

I think it manifests itself often times in hand wringing, sort of worrying about things that people shouldn’t be worrying about. It tends to distract us because these horrific incidents are the shiny object of the moment and because we focus on the shiny object of the moment it takes our attention away from fixing the problems that are always there that are easy to fix with mostly existing resources and training that would be easy to give people.

Most problems are within our grasp; we can fix them if we just pay attention to them. The horrific, society-changing issues — no. On an individual basis at this particular moment, most of us don’t have a lot of power to fix those problems. So it seems to me there is still quite a lot of low hanging fruit if only we could get people to focus on it.

JS: Why is it important for USITT to disseminate this information to people?

SA: Well precisely because there’s so much low hanging fruit. And so even as I look around (at Conference), basic things like trip hazards, signage, lighting, these are all things that ought to be done right every time because they’re so routine, they’re so easy. But the people who are tasked with making them right every time are people at the bottom of the food chain. So, young people who are entering the industry, if they become aware of the right way to get the easy stuff correct every time, that will take care of the vast majority of problems at live events.

So yes, tragedy captures the headlines, but the thing that risk managers worry about isn’t tragedy. I mean it is tragedy, but it’s the routine stuff. It’s death by a thousand cuts. And so USITT is doing God’s work by teaching people to pay attention to the routine stuff that’s so easy to fix, but so often is still wrong.

JS: Tell me a bit about combining your law career with the entertainment industry. Why was that important for you to do?

SA: Honestly, I fell into it. When I’m talking about catastrophes I often talk about black swans. A black swan comes out of a book called The Black Swan. A black swan has three elements to it. It’s something that is extraordinarily rare if not unprecedented, it is highly impactful so it rocks our world, and in the aftermath, there’s a cottage industry of people who come out and say, “Oh I saw that coming, and if you buy my stuff, I can fix it for you.”

My practice is a black swan. I was just a regular lawyer doing mostly injury type cases. You know, catastrophic cases, but still I was a basic tort lawyer. A case crossed my desk where a young man almost died at a big festival due to a crowd crush injury. I had gone to a lot of shows and a lot of sporting events and this was the most interesting case I had ever worked on. I worked on it for more than two years and it settled on the courthouse steps. It really was a career-changing case for me because after it resolved I wound up talking about it a lot because it was so interesting and I had learned so much from it.

Just in the course of talking about that case, I started to meet people who would come up to me and say, “Gee, Steve, you seem to know something about the live event industry and the operational issues that go into it. My lawyer doesn’t, maybe you could help me.” And from that type of conversation, a practice was born.

So, what I do dealing with risk and safety at live events for my entire law practice, that’s not a thing. It’s just what I do, and for me it’s great. It’s interesting, it gets me out talking to people like you and the USITT folks. And I feel like in some small way I’m helping to make the world a safer place, which frankly for a lawyer is saying a lot.

Most lawyers roll out of bed in the morning saying, “No!” I get to say yes. I get to figure out how people can say yes safely. That’s a good thing.

Event safety sessions to be offered by Steven A. Adelman and Event Safety Alliance at USITT19:

What Do You Want to Secure? A Non-Rhetorical Discussion of Risk and Safety, Wednesday, March 20, 2019: 4:30 PM – 5:45 PM

Everyone knows that events need security. But talking about security makes some people uncomfortable, and no one wants to pay for it. On the other hand, we don’t want people to get hurt or have our show or artist become a buzzword for disaster. Event Safety Alliance Vice President Steven A. Adelman will lead a spirited conversation through the minefield from security guards to reputational damage and take seriously the ultimate question, “What do you want to secure?”

Flooding in Louisville: Disaster, the Best Laid Plans, and Redemption, Thursday, March 21, 2019: 1:00 PM – 2:30 PM

September is supposed to be the driest month of the year in Louisville. Not last year. This session will reveal, in all its soggy detail, how one festival promoter adapted its plans, worked in partnership with local officials and communicated so effectively that patrons waiting to be towed out of the muddy campground said they were already looking forward to next year’s show.

Register for USITT19 to attend these sessions and experience more great offerings.