Las Vegas shooting highlights communication challenges in initial moments of incident

On 1 October, a mass shooting took place near the Strip in Las Vegas. It was regarded as the worst shooting incident in the United States with more than 58 deaths including the gunman and hundreds more injured. As the shooting was underway, there was confusion among revellers in the area and first responders as to the source of the gunshots. The situation was further complicated by the fact that a country concert was going on when the gunman, Stephen Paddock started his rampage with some people mistaking the gunshots for the sound of fireworks.

It was only moments later those responding police officers managed to determine that the gunshots originated from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel instead of other locations including the nearby Luxor Hotel. About an hour into the shooting, police finally managed to breach Paddock’s room where they found him dead alongside a large cache of weapons including two assault rifles. Initially, there were also reports of another shooter in the vicinity, but this was later dismissed on account of no evidence. The scale of the tragedy was enormous, and it has no doubt once again put the spotlight on the US gun control debate.

For travellers, the Las Vegas shooting was a reminder of the need to be equipped with necessary survival skills whenever such incidents occur. Regardless if the shooting is a crime- or terror-related event, the first moments of attacks are often characterised by confusion as well as conflicting accounts of what exactly happened. The difficulty in gauging the circumstances also exacerbated by the panic among those nearby the attack scene, therefore, causing false information to be spread around.

The team at GWS has always been mindful when it comes to sending out alerts about such incident to its users. During the Las Vegas shooting, the first red alert that was sent out approximately 40 minutes after the first gunshots rang out, informing users in the 100km-radius about a shooting incident near the Mandalay Hotel as well as telling them to evacuate or stay away from the area if possible. Although getting as much information as possible promptly was highly prioritised by the team, it was more important that only verified information be included in the alerts to avoid instigating fear among Safeture users. In the case where information was unclear, the team made sure that this was communicated to users while efforts were being made to verify the information. In the Las Vegas incident, GWS chose not to highlight the reports of the possible presence of another attacker as mentioned by some media outlets as there had not been any verified information to prove this. It later turned out to be, that there was only one attacker in the shooting.

The tragedy in Las Vegas has once again illustrated to GWS that early stage warning is always critical in ensuring the safety of those affected. While getting users informed as soon as possible has always been the priority of GWS, it also strives to provide a balance between speed and accuracy in its alerts as we did with the Las Vegas shooting.

Following are timelines of the events as well as the GWS and media reports:

  • The attacker, Stephen Paddock started to shoot toward a country music festival from his room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel at 22:15 (GMT-7) on 1 October
  • Initial alert (red) by GWS at 22:57 (GMT-7) on 1 October
    • Event informing on nature of incident as well as location based on various sources.
  • First reports and beginning of rolling coverage by major news networks including CNN, CGTN, Fox News and BBC from 23:00 (GMT-7) onwards on 1 October.
  • First update (red) by GWS at 23:12 (GMT-7) on 1 October
    • Update informing users about number of casualties from the shooting as well as the heavy security presence in the area and nearby streets being cordoned off by police.
  • Second update by GWS at 00:02 (GMT-7) on 2 October
    • Update to inform users about the closure of McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas due to its proximity with the shooting incident
  •  Third update by GWS at 02:03 (GMT-7) on 2 October
    • Informing users about the continued police presence in the area as well an update on the investigation efforts. The reopening of McCarran airport was also included in the alert.
  • Fourth update by GWS at 17:31 (GMT-7) on 2 October
    • Informing users about the expected heightened security in the Las Vegas Strip following the shooting as well as an impending visit by President Donald J. Trump that could cause some travel disruptions.

Chan Hoi Cheong
GWS Analyst
Security risk analyst based in Kuala Lumpur

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By | 2017-10-25T12:16:10+00:00 October 17th, 2017|Categories: Case Studies|Comments Off on Las Vegas shooting highlights communication challenges in initial moments of incident

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