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.