On Thursday a man wearing body armor and wielding firearms went into Phoenix Comicon with the intent to hurt people. It is the kind of thing that makes us second guess going out into public places, especially into crowds. Thankfully it appears he was swiftly apprehended and not allowed to hurt anyone. Though the outcome was positive, the incident has certainly raised a lot of eyebrows. 

Conventions have, for years now, tried to figure out how to keep their patrons safe. Large conventions like San Diego Comic Con and New York Comic Con restrict access to entrances, require bag checks, and implement prop restrictions. Reactions to their efforts have been mixed at times, but it is clear the conventions were acting in good faith in order to protect their patrons.

In light of Thursday’s events, Phoenix Comicon, the police, and the convention center responded in kind and implemented immediate policy changes to prevent another incident. Yes, they may slow down check-in and disappointed some attendees – especially those with elaborate cosplay costumes including prop weapons. But the changes were meant to keep people safe and the convention offered refunds to disappointed attendees who did not want to attend with the new restrictions. 

In my opinion their reaction and solution were the best case scenario given the situation. I would not be surprised to see similar protocols upheld next year during the convention. I would also not be surprised to see other conventions jumping on the restrictions bandwagon in order to cut off the possibility of situations like this happening in the future. Con goers may have to accept some rule changes in order to help ensure their own safety.

It is not just situations like this that are prompting change, either. I think it has become clear that we live in a time where tensions are escalating and mass attacks, whether by shooters, bombers, or someone mowing down groups of people in a vehicle, seem to be more common across the globe. This incident coming on the coattails of the horrific Manchester bombing will most certainly do very little to soothe public anxiety. 

As a frequent event attendee living in New York City, I would be lying if I said safety was not frequently on my mind. There are moments where I’m smashed into a crowded subway or weaving my way through a full dealer’s hall at a convention that I realize how easy a target I am. Sometimes it even brings me pause and I reconsider whether or not I want to attend an event at all.

So what do we do? What will our response be? How do we keep people safe while still leaving room to have fun and enjoy ourselves? I think it starts with events like Phoenix Comicon having good relations with the police, which seemed to make a difference in this instance. I also think stricter rules, geared toward ensuring attendees’ safety, will become more prevalent at events like comic book conventions. 

Perhaps it goes further than that, though. What can individuals do? This is solely my personal advice but I’ll share it for what it is worth.

Be Prepared

One of the best things you can do is mentally prepare yourself to react to a dangerous event. Studies have shown that taking time to think through your options and reactions long before being put into a dangerous situation will make you more likely to act on them. It is the same idea as “practice makes perfect,” except in the case of an active shooter situation you generally don’t get to practice in person. 

The first place to start is education. Watch videos like this one, which give basic information on how to react to active shooter situations. Once you have the basic framework you can build plans from there. Most of us have playfully concocted a zombie apocalypse survival plan, but how many of us have seriously sat down and considered what we would do if someone did walk into a convention center and open fire? 

If You See Something, Say Something

Sorry, I know it is cheesy but the campaign works. The reason the police were able to act so quickly in Phoenix was due to the diligence of a friend of the potential shooter who reported their concerns to the police. Without that knowledge who knows how far he would have gotten and who he could have hurt. 

Part of seeing something means teaching yourself to observe. It is not fun and I certainly don’t want to make anyone paranoid, but there is little harm in making sure you know where the primary exits are when you enter a convention. It can also be helpful to casually observe those around you as well. I do it all the time on the train, on the street, and even in convention centers. Keep your eyes open because you never know what you might notice. 

Don’t Stop Living

I wanted to add this last part in because I think it is important. It is easy to get caught up in fear and allow it to dictate our lives. I know individuals who will not go see a movie in a movie theater anymore or attend large public holiday gatherings due to their concerns about safety. There is nothing wrong with those personal choices, but I think it also allows those who inspire terror to gain a victory that they do not deserve.

You can take an active part in maintaining your own safety and the safety of those around you without disconnecting from the world. Take precautions, stand behind new safety policies at conventions, and do your best to prepare yourself for the worst. We all have a part to play in situations like this and the more people that are prepared, the less likely it is that bad guys will win. 

What happened at Phoenix Comicon on Thursday was certainly a wake-up call to the showrunners and attendees, one of many over the past couple of years. Thankfully, due to someone stepping up to report the possible threat and the quick action of police, a potential crisis was averted. However, there is still a lot to do when it comes to protecting people who go to big events like conventions and I think we will continue to see new policies roll out across the country in light of growing safety concerns.

One thought on “Armed Individual at Phoenix Comicon Raises Concerns Over Convention Safety”

  1. A couple of other things. Calling 911 on your cell phone will route the call to where ever your cellphone number is based from. So if you are from California and call 911 in new York it will send the call to your local california 911 call center. Before a trip like this I get the polices emergency line of the city I am in and store it in my phone. You can get it from their website or by calling and asking. Make sure you let them know your phone will route to another state or area and that is why you are asking.

    Also if you are with a group pic a off site meet up spot and pull everyone in a group text. This is so your not looking through a mob for your friend. Of course you move to your meet up spot when it is safe to do so.

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