The Salt Lake City/County Board of Health wants festival seating banned and security and medical personnel beefed up at indoor rock concerts to prevent more youths from being injured - or even killed - at the county-owned Salt Palace.
"A mother has a right to know that if she sends her children to a county facility to be entertained, officials there will follow rules to ensure their safety so she won't be sent to an emergency room to identify her dead child," said Dr. Kirk M. Gilmore, board vice chairman.The board of health Thursday voted to endorse Gilmore's recommendations, which call for an adequate ratio of security and medical personnel to fans at heavy-metal concerts and the turning away of alcohol-intoxicated concertgoers.
Security guards using breathalyzers and drug-sniffing dogs in crowd control are also advocated by the board in its recommendations being forwarded to Salt Lake Mayor Palmer DePaulis and the Salt Lake County Commission.
The recommendations come on the heels of the Jan. 18 AC/DC concert in which three teenagers were fatally crushed when thousands of teens pushed toward the stage.
But, according to Gilmore, medical injuries at heavy-metal concerts are nothing new.
"We've learned to expect casualties," said Gilmore, an emergency room doctor at LDS Hospital. "When we hear that there's going to be a heavy-metal concert, we cringe. We just anticipate there's going to be incoming wounded."
Gilmore said the typical injuries treated in the hospital are alcohol, drug or assault related.
The casualties Jan. 18 were more severe. Some 15-20 others were treated for drug-related problems. One was sexually assaulted. And three were killed.
"One paramedic described it (the Salt Palace) as a war zone," he said. A war zone the Salt Palace apparently wasn't equipped to handle.
Gilmore said one official told him that seven fewer nurses and emergency medical technicians were present at the AC/DC concert than at a previous Judas Priest concert. "There were 500 seats too many sold on the floor and 30 fewer security officers than there should have been," Gilmore learned.
The health official was also told that the temperature on the arena floor approached 100 degrees during the concert. Security guards spraying concertgoers with water "did nothing to cool them down and more to incite them."
Meanwhile, Gilmore said, because most, if not all, of the city's paramedics were responding to the Salt Palace, the rest of the city was "left uncovered."
"`We had a non-concert related medication problem that should have been attended by paramedics, but they were all down at the Salt Palace," Gilmore said. "That's clearly a health-care issue."
The health board isn't advocating banning heavy-metal concerts. "But we want to make them safe so we don't have substantial medical problems," Gilmore said. "I'm simply saying if they're going to have these concerts, they've got to set some very stringent guidelines."
County Commission Chairman Jim Bradley said Thursday that security measures planned for the Monday performance of Bel Biv DeVoe will include reserved-seating only and hiring police to supplement regular security.
What the board recommends
-Eliminating standing-room indoor festival seating.
-Controlling temperatures, which shouldn't exceed 90 degrees.
-Monitoring for "acceptable sound levels."
-Providing adequate ration of security personnel to concertgoers.
-Establishing a ration between expected attendance and emergency medical techincians or nurses.
-Turning away of drug or alcohol-intixicated people and prosecution of those possessing drugs.
-Assigning county or city law enforcement officer in official capacity.
-Designating security person to control electrical systems and public-address systems.
-Making concertgoers stay in their chairs and not obstruct common areas.