Lessons Learned: Las Vegas Shooting

On October 1, 2017, several country artists were scheduled to perform at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival. The event is an annual outdoor concert held at the Las Vegas Village with an attendance of over 22,000 people. At approximately 10:06 pm, Stephen Paddock opened fired from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino killing 58 people and injuring over 700 others. Over a seven-day period Paddock, with the help of unsuspecting hotel staff, filled his room with over 22 suitcases and bags carrying weapons and ammunition.[1] Understanding hindsight is 20/20, a few changes by the hotel, festival staff, and the Metropolitan Police could have saved lives, thwarted the attack or wholly deterred the shooter.

View from Paddock’s room to concert site

Training Event Staff

Several of the deaths and injuries are attributed to the festival crowd running towards the only available exit. The large crowd massed together within the shooters gun line created a larger target for Paddock. As with any significant event, entrances and exits are limited to regulate access control and flow of the crowd. In the case of an emergency, the event staff should be trained to open other exits and direct the crowd to safety. The crew should rehearse emergency drills before the event to gain an understanding of responsibilities, response times, signals, limitations, and capabilities. Training the event staff to assist in an emergency could have saved some lives and reduced the number of injuries.

Hotel Procedures

Paddock used procedures against the hotel and its staff. The “Do Not Disturb” signs prevented staff from entering the rooms allowing Paddock sufficient time to install cameras and prepare for the mass shooting.[2] Paddock was able to check-in to the adjoining room, use valet parking and order room service all under his girlfriend’s name. The hotel industry must consider procedural changes regarding security and safety. One change includes baggage checks. Our bags are checked when we enter an airport, sports arena, amusement park, concert, federal building and even a museum.  Hotels can increase security while remaining considerate to their guests. Another improvement is the daily entry into rooms by housekeepers. The “Do Not Disturb” sign is great, but the hotels must keep track of which rooms are refusing services for over 12 hours. Paddock went three days without room service. Entry into the rooms might have alerted the staff of irregular activity. Lastly, random safety and security checks by hotel security. Paddock used screws and a hasp to seal the door to the stairway on the 32nd floor. Though hotel security noticed the closed door, regular and consistent patrols of the hotel and property could have identified the shut door earlier, raised some red flags and possibly thwarted the attack.

If a room goes on do not disturb for more than 12 hours, we investigate.

-Steve Wynn, owner of the Wynn Las Vegas Hotel

Communication & Coordination

The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and the hotel security each had their internal issues with communications and radios. The police radios were bogged down with everyone speaking at once restricting the pertinent information from being relayed. Police also discovered their radios did not work inside the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino. If these limitations were identified before an incident, the police department could have identified standard operating procedures for a secondary and tertiary form of communication and limiting radio traffic to only pertinent information. With the types and the number of threats existing today, coordination is crucial, especially when dealing with large crowds. Before the event, the coordination between the staff of the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival, the Metropolitan Police and surrounding businesses could have reduced response times, eliminated confusion and identified responsibilities and expectations.

Hard Target

Paddock meticulously planned the mass shooting incident and vulnerabilities were taken advantage of to conduct the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Although Paddock researched several locations and outdoor events across the country, he chose Mandalay Bay since he is familiar with their routine and ultimately, the hotel staff is familiar with him. The circumstances make the Mandalay Bay Resort what the security industry calls a “soft target.” Paddock knew the Mandalay Bay team would not question his actions and behavior. Small changes could have made the hotel an unfavorable location for Paddock. Paddock used his girlfriend’s name several times to book an adjoining room and park his vehicle using valet. The hotel never required her to be present or show ID. Paddock also made This small change and those mentioned above in hotel procedures are cost-effective, easily implemented and portray the hotel as a “hard target.”

View in Paddock’s Mandalay Bay hotel room.

Summary

Yes, it’s easy to make these assessments in hindsight, but those who are familiar with security, safety, and crisis management would agree, the evaluations mentioned here are fundamental. Combat veterans had a saying during the Iraq and Afghan wars, “Complacency kills.” Organizations in the United States must understand they need to alter their behaviors and consider security and safety in all aspects of their business. Hotels across America do not check the luggage of their hotel guests. Why not? Yes, the checks may be time-consuming, costly and may anger a few guests but undoubtedly the Mandalay Bay Resort spent more time, money and angered more guests after the shooting incident. As crime evolves, industries need to equally develop to remain profitable and provide safety and security to their customers.

[1] Vivian Yee, Video Shows Las Vegas Gunman Gambling, Eating Alone and Filling His Suite with Guns, The New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/22/us/las-vegas-shooting-stephen-paddock.html

[2] LVMPD Preliminary Investigative Report. 1 October/Mass Casualty Shooting. https://www.lvmpd.com/en-us/Documents/1_October_FIT_Report_01-18-2018_Footnoted.pdf

Up Next: Importance of Protection-In-Depth