Furry convention evacuations and stand-in-place precautions becoming a more common occurrence
March has been quite a maddening time for the hard working staff at furry conventions. Two of the gatherings, Vancouver’s Vancoufur and Detroit’s Motor City Fur Con, both came under attack during their respective activities when a false report of threat, known as swatting, was committed and caused the need to temporarily evacuate the facilities. Toronto’s Furnal Equinox, meanwhile, had a scare in the region of the convention during the early morning hours that caused witnessing staff to recommend sheltering in place.
We will start with what occurred during Furnal Equinox as it was a different situation than the other two. Then we will go over what occurred at Vancoufur and Motor City.
Furnal Equinox - The Shelter in Place Alert
During the early morning hours on March 19th, an announcement came on Furnal Equinox’s page. It had informed people to shelter in place and await an all clear. There was a rumor of an armed individual in the area. It is uncertain if the incident was related to the convention or was a tangential event that caused the alarm.
A staff member, BT-Armistice, later on gave details to the situation at hand and why precautions were taken to warn attendees to remain in place, but could also not provide any more details on the catalyst of the incident itself:
I was sitting by the bar near the entrance of the hotel lobby closer to the North Tower side, with a couple of staff members and a few good friends.
Around 2:45 am, a high pitched feminine scream came from the south side of the hotel. The lobby fell silent and another group stood up to see what was going on. I did not hear anyone say anything, just a mass panic and everyone running toward the north side of the hotel.
Someone in our group said “run”, so we dispersed in different directions.
I posted in the [staff] chat at 2:51am to stay out of the lobby and shelter in place, was with another FE staff member who had a radio and there was silence on the line. We made a decision then [to announce and caution publicly], and I feel it was the right one.
2:56 possible shot heard on 11th floor [...] 2:58 another report of 2-3 “pops” heard south tower 11th floor. [...] 3:09 - loud pops heard North Tower came across the chat.
During my rounds the [Toronto Police Department] and security made their way to the lobby and we were given the all clear. I posted at 3:47 that we were all clear.
This is my account of what happened. What started the scream and panic, I do not know. I was far from the point of origin. Did I do the right thing by saying shelter in place? I feel like I did. There were so many unknowns, and it took awhile to understand what was going on. In a situation like that it’s better to be cautious than to brush it off.
[Furnal Equinox’s] team did a wonderful job working together with both the hotel and the [Toronto Police Department].
The first of the swatting incidents and scares of the month. The situation and call for evacuation started on Saturday afternoon local time after police responded to a false mass-casualty threat. Global Furry Television covered the situation.
Not soon after the all-clear was given for the convention to start back up, a letter was posted on social media by the staff.
To our attendees,
Firstly, I’d like to thank you deeply for your cooperation and patience.
Keeping every attendee as safe as possible is our top priority first and foremost.
After speaking with the [Royal Canadian Mounted Police], we learned the police received a spoofed number call originating from Memphis, Tennessee regarding our event.
Further investigation of the call has led the RCMP to believe that the call was designated to ruin our fun.
Simply put, we were swatted.
Due to the nature of the call and its involvement with public safety, the police decided to take action and put safety first.
The building has been checked thoroughly and has been given the all-clear by the police. There is no reason to worry about any danger.
As of right now: everything is back on track, scheduling has been updated, and attendees are already back to having fun.
Furs tried to make the best of an anxious situation. Some by providing comfort, others by paying artists to try to bring some levity at a decidedly unfun circumstance.
Motor City Fur Con
But little did the artist (MoozyMary) know that this badge they made for Vancoufur soon find itself modified a few weeks later after a second swatting incident would occur. This time in Detroit, Michigan on Friday afternoon. Mainstream press outlets were quick to note the situation as it occurred. This resulted in furs encouraging people to forward any media discussion toward the convention staff, and to try and move discussions on social media toward folks who were showing kindness in a rough situation.
An all clear was given at around 4pm and from then on things moved forward as normal, including the fact that there were parking problems all weekend. It is called Motor City after all.
Unlike the Canadian convention that was swatted, there was not a formal letter from staff addressing the situation directly beyond the all clear.
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a project coordinator and Kangaroo from CheektRoowaga, NY, interested in video games, current events, politics, writing and finance
Overall I wanted to hold off a bit on writing or documenting this situation, but after a few of these incidents I don't think retaining silence is going to ebb these from occurring in the future. Good work was done to keep things on track in spite of these situations, and great thanks goes to the staff for being patient and keeping a cool head in these situations. Having them all in on place and recorded also helps those in authority understand the patterns and work together to counter these type of situations and to hopefully prepare themselves on how to deal with increasing situations of Swatting of larger conventions, furry or not.
I've moved these observations people have made on dealing with these situations, along with my own thoughts on dealing with these future occurrences. Hopefully these situations will go away, but it's good to keep prepared.
While it may be easier to simply highlight these threats as a reason to skip in person gatherings and shift to an online only approach, it is not healthy to change one’s behavior due to the actions of the wicked. Instead, share stories about the events and good times and actions you saw at the convention. Allow staff to handle media interactions regarding any situations such as this.
As far as the utilization of social media in these moments, take a page from the words of Nick Wilde from Zootopia, try not to let them see that it gets to you, even if it does. Instead of showing fear or sorrow, highlight how upset and disappointed you are at the behavior instead. State firmly how it’s unacceptable to attack the rights of furries to assemble. Try to refrain from speaking with fears of the future, the spreading of fear is the desired outcome here, so speak not with fear but with firmness. At least in public.
While the situation is considered active, refrain from posting photos of the situations onto the general public facing posts on social media. If the situation is not a swatting but an actual active shooter situation, it can be harmful to post where people are evacuated to on social media as the hostile person can be reading the feeds. However, do inform other friends and furs what is going on with photos is fine if it’s done in private direct conversations such as on Discord or Telegram, or direct message features on Twitter.
Prospective convention operators
For staff, good work has been done on working with the facilities and hotels to evacuate the spaces. Despite the difficulty presented things rebounded quite well. One noted thing that happened in both of these situations that could use improvement was that the convention social media account seemed to have auto-posting of the times and activities that retained its publication in spite of the changing circumstances. So, if you are utilizing scripted auto-posts in your social media account(s), be sure you have a kill switch that can be activated in these kinds of extenuating circumstances.
Also go over what the convention will do in case of an hour or two disruption to the schedule, just in case.
I would also try to bring in the Public Relations person from Vancoufur to lead or be heard in any convention gathering roundtable discussions on handling public relations during adverse crises. The grace and promptness of Vancoufur’s response to the situation went above and beyond expectations and was seen as applaudable by many.
And for those perpetrating the acts. In the end, utilizing the organizations designed to keep the citizenry safe in a means to terrorize them will not go unpunished. Every time this individual or group tries to create an auto-immune response and utilizes our governments as unwitting henchmen in their plot of vengeance or indignation is but one more opportunity that they will be caught. The irony here is that while the fear furs on the ground during a swatting incident is mostly temporary, that same fear will shadow the perpetrators for far longer as it will never be over for them until they are caught. They should quit while they’re ahead, and not keep pressing their luck.
For now, furries will simply endure and be prepared, as we always have.
I don't understand, in the Furnal Equinox section it says there were loud pops. Do they mean gunfire? How come this is not explained? I know America is meant to be very dangerous, everyone tells me it is dangerous over there, but has gunfire been so normalised that no explanation of what happened other than this vague description of gunfire is considered enough? I really think this ominous vague description of three evacuations is more harmful than a full description of what actually happened would be. Other than proving that America is indeed dangerous, and violence is normalised, I guess.
The part was a blockquote and as thus was a direct statement by a person. There is a bit of vagueness as to what it could have been, a "pop" could be a fire arm, or perhaps there was an inflation part going on and they were committing some 'spontaneous deflating'.
In anxious situations it is usually best to be cautious of course. It lends to why an "all clear" was slower to come by then beyond the incident.
Also it should be noted that Furnal Equinox takes place in Canada. Which technically makes your statement of the "Americas" technically accurate, but usually it's the United States that has the stereotyped reputation than Canada does.
I would refrain from trying to geograph preparedness for these kind of situations though, violence and bullying acts can occur regardless of place and countermeasures and preparedness is good to have in spite of location.
I think the issue here is that there a large disruption with this shelter in place but no explanation. Lots of things could make a popping sound. And many things could sound like a shot, particularly if someone has no actual experience with guns. It's not clear that there was any actual event to justify a panic or sheltering nor is it clear if there was any gunfire. That's not unexpected because events can be crazy and panics can spread and it might be justified to act cautiously. The strange part reading it is that the police were called and gave an all-clear but staff still don't seem to know what was going on. That suggests a failure to communicate with the police and the hotel. The police would presumably say what caused (or was likely to have caused) the panic and whether or not they believe any shorts were actually fired.
"If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind."
~John Stuart Mill~
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