Police and fire departments, business owners, and event organizers in San Antonio are examining their security measures after the massacre at a music festival in Las Vegas on Sunday night.
“I’m sure that at the policy level there’s going to be conversation … regarding specific procedures about guns in hotels,” said Liza Barratachea, president and CEO of the San Antonio Hotel and Lodging Association. “And not just for hotels and hotel guests, but open venues.”
At least 59 people were killed and more than 500 injured, according to several media reports, after a lone gunman opened fire from a hotel tower into a packed crowd of country music concertgoers near the Las Vegas Strip on Sunday night. It was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Authorities said that the gunman, 64-year-old Stephen Paddock of Mesquite, Nevada, killed himself before law enforcement entered the 32nd-floor room at the Mandalay Bay Resort from which he fired. The New York Times reported that the gunman had at least 17 firearms in the room.
San Antonio event organizers and emergency responders have plenty of reasons to take stock of their security measures, given upcoming events such as the Mala Luna music festival later this month, and the Tricentennial and men’s basketball Final Four, which are expected to draw tens of thousands of visitors from across the country next year.
The Alamodome, where the Final Four will be held in March, adopted a clear bag policy in June, following a security measure that has been in place at NFL stadiums since 2013.
Hotel industry leaders have been talking about the Las Vegas shooting, but said they do not expect any changes in policy until more details emerge about the incident.
“We want to determine the facts that are applicable in Las Vegas,” said Scott Joslove, president and CEO of the Texas Hotel and Lodging Association. “We don’t know the practices at that building.”
As soon as details emerge, the industry will review best practices to see if the incident reveals a weak point in policy or practice. It’s entirely possible that nothing reasonable could have stopped this man, Joslove said.
“Not only will there be conversations,” he said, “but all of our safety experts will be working with law enforcement to determine the best safety practices to address these scenarios in the future.”
The nonprofit trade association, which includes 3,700 members from large hotels to small bed and breakfasts, issued a statement Monday suggesting that members should remind their staff of “see something, say something” policies when it comes to suspicious activities and consider revising “do not disturb,” or DND, policies.
“Hotel brands generally require that guest rooms subject to a DND request should still be entered for routine cleaning after three days,” Joslove said in the statement. “Hotels should consider how best to address DND policies during major citywide events in which there will be large crowds.”
San Antonio has its own tragic history with a mass shooting. In 1979, a gunman opened fire from inside his recreational vehicle during the Battle of Flowers Parade near downtown San Antonio, killing two people and injuring 51.
“Watching the news [about Las Vegas] this morning … the first thing that came to my mind [as vulnerable] was Fiesta and Tricentennial,” Barratachea said, “and a big open park at Hemisfair surrounded by buildings.”
If any legislation or new security measures emerge as a result of the massacre, San Antonio Police Chief William McManus is not convinced it would help prevent such attacks in the future.
U.S. legislators and citizens routinely tumble into discussions about gun control after mass shooting incidents. Tighter security measures sometimes follow these events, such as those enforced by the Transportation Security Administration. The TSA is part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, created after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
“This is not preventable unless we have intelligence that would lead us to believe that something like this could happen,” McManus told reporters Monday morning. “These random type events are off the radar.
“This didn’t have anything to do with hotel security. Anybody can walk up to any room with a suitcase, a golf bag, whatever it may be,” he said. “We do the very, very best we can to tighten security to the point where we’re inspecting backpacks.”
Asked if he thought more strict regulations on who could acquire guns would have changed anything that happened Sunday night, he responded: “I don’t.”
The City’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) is the hub of all communications and response activities during a variety of emergencies including terrorist attacks, mass shootings, and natural disasters. Just last week the EOC hosted a simulation of a mass terror attack for local public information officials working in the public and private sectors, San Antonio Fire Department spokesman Mike “Woody” Woodward said.
The San Antonio Fire Department operates the operations center, which was fully activated before and during Hurricane Harvey, Woodward said. “Hurricane Harvey was a good drill for us, even though San Antonio didn’t get hit hard.”
The center also hosts monthly meetings with public and private partners throughout Bexar County to stay on top of preparedness strategies “so when things get crazy, people aren’t working independently, we’re working as a team.”
Social media, news media, and internal communications are all, for the most part, run through EOC so there is a “unified, cohesive message” from officials to the public. The quickest way to receive updates in case of emergency is to sign up for the Alert SA text messages at www.saoemprepare.com.
Some local venues require bag searches and patdowns. Others require attendees to go through metal detectors. At North East Independent School District football games, ticket holders must pass through a metal detector, have their bag checked, and in some cases, be wanded before entering the stadium. But San Antonio ISD does not have metal detectors at its events, said spokeswoman Leslie Price.
For the most part, it’s up to the private owner or organizer how much security is necessary, officials said.
Tech Bloc CEO David Heard, an organizer of the Botánica Music and Arts Festival scheduled for next spring at Six Flags Fiesta Texas’ parking lot, said they are planning strict security that could become more stringent.
“We have strong local security requirements for large events in San Antonio, and will be teaming with SAPD to provide strong security at our event. And safety was a big factor in terms of the location we chose for the festival,” Heard said. “In the wake of this tragedy, we may even plus up our already strong security plans. But really, today our thoughts, prayers, and focus is on Las Vegas and the victims of this terrible act.”
Rivard Report staff members Shari Biediger, Hanna Oberhofer, and Roseanna Garza contributed to this article.