Rock Lititz: Collaborating for Safety

by Rachel Pfennig Hales

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Working in live events is a unique and specialized niche, in both expertise and personality. We dive into our projects. We are committed and creative and tenacious to ensure we put together the best events possible. We have to be. The live event industry is a collection of “do-ers.” The show must go on, and it will.

Our industry grew from this unparalleled drive. A commitment to pushing the limits, and never settling for good enough. However, as we continue to reach new heights of innovation and technology, the demands of that show have continued to escalate. Gear becomes bigger, heavier, more intricate, and inevitably, more dangerous.

More than ever, it is essential that we commit, not only to getting things done, but to making sure they are done correctly. From design to manufacturing, rehearsals through closing night, every person, every detail, and every piece of technology contributes to pulling off these giant spectacles responsibly. Safety for ourselves, our colleagues, our clients, and our gear must be the cornerstone of how we work.

At Rock Lititz, education is a primary pillar within our community. Over two dozen live event industry vendors call Lititz, PA home, and contribute to the growing list of resources the campus is able to offer. We truly believe that the more we are able to learn from each other, the better our final result. The more we know, the safer and more efficient we are. By not only perfecting our various specialties, but understanding the context of the industry at large, our clients, our companies, and, ultimately, opening night gain long lasting benefits.

Of course, collaboration and education come in many forms. From something as simple are forming stronger relationships with other industry professionals, to full day training sessions in various fields, the goal is that everyone is able to find a way to progress their careers and knowledge while at Rock Lititz. Mini-seminars and panels are organized throughout the year for both local employees and visiting crews. Even generalized training courses, like operational certifications from Lift, Inc  and CPR training from Keep the Beat Alive, are routinely scheduled to support the ever growing hub based in Lititz.

The need and true desire for continued advancement is evident. New ideas and opportunities continue to emerge, with companies and individuals finding ways to be both students and educators. The Rock Lititz Community has certainly embraced a spirit of collaborative learning. With so many top industry contributors on and near campus, everyone is able to participate in their own unique ways.

In an effort to create a set of central industry resources for advancing our skills and overall context of understanding, several Pod 2 tenants are actually using their new spaces at Rock Lititz to provide training for technicians based around the world. Columbus McKinnon Entertainment Technology (CM-ET,) for example, offers a full range of certification and classes designed for both beginners and experts. The leader in quality lifting and positioning equipment for entertainment riggers, their classes range from rope and knot fundamentals all the way to fall training and SPRAT certifications. New climbers from the area are taking advantage, as well as experienced riggers, here to brush up before starting a tour. Everyone has something to learn, in the attempt to keep people in the air and on the ground, as safe as possible.

Other companies offer more specialized sessions, targeting their unique corner of backstage. Pyrotek Special Effects focuses on educating individuals already familiar with and working within the effects industry. Eric Bragg, Technical Trainer at their new Pod 2 location, stresses the importance of both detailed training and safety when it comes to their work:

“Our top priority at Pyrotek is the safety of the performers, crew and general public. One of the main goals of opening a facility here at Rock Lititz was the ability to start a formal training program, specific to what we do best. We’ve worked hard to collect the technical and real-world knowledge spread through the generations of employees who work here at Pyrotek. We’ve used this wisdom to create custom technical manuals, training aids and regulations to create a one-of-a-kind process to approach special effects technicians. The work here is helping change the industry for the better, and we are excited to see what else will come from our new Rock Lititz facility, and the educational work coming from it.”

Pyrotek’s space at Pod 2 offers training, classroom and warehouse space to help support their visiting staff from around North America, while also producing gear for touring shows. Every precaution is taken to ensure that their effects exceed all safety standards, before and after it leaves the shop.

Similar, industry giant Clair Global is committed to making sure their staff is not only trained to use the necessary gear, but also ready to join any tour seamlessly and adjust to life on the road. Candidates are introduced to the company’s philosophy through a fully immersive training program. The 12-week competitive program “strives to ensure all candidates reach a particular benchmark through written and practical exams,” says Dave Lester, Director of Education and Safety at Clair Global. “It’s important that we do everything possible to help ensure the concert environment is safe from known hazards and the bar is kept high to maintain professional standards.”

Ultimately, that same dedication to safety and training must be a commitment we all make. Every person, every vendor, every department must push to keep backstage a place we can work in confidence. With an attention to detail, a promise to extend our education, and an assurance of collaboration, Rock Lititz is helping encourage our community to strive for excellence, in all our passions. The live event industry continues to grow and advance and exceed all expectations. We must continue to embrace and support that quintessential drive that has always made our industry so special.

Shelby Cude