Multi-department Rock the South debriefing held

Michael Pugh of Rock the South takes notes during the debriefing Monday morning, Aug. 15, 2022. (Amy Leonard for The Cullman Tribune)

Updated 8/17/22

CULLMAN, Ala. – A multi-department Rock the South (RTS) debriefing was held Monday morning, with representatives from local and statewide law enforcement, emergency medical services and emergency management agencies ready to hash out what went well and identify areas for improvement going forward with the annual event. 

Law enforcement officers provide feedback to a Rock the South representative (Amy Leonard for The Cullman Tribune)

Cullman Fire Rescue Chief Brian Bradberry reported that having added personnel and physicians on-site made a positive impact; however, he said the lack of signage on the event side of the sponsor row tents made deciphering where assistance was needed difficult. He recommended tents on one side being labeled with even numbers and the other side with odd numbers.  

Bradberry concluded that having a plan a, plan b and plan c would be advantageous for RTS representatives.  

Having dispatch located on the hill overlooking the crowd was a favorable move for law enforcement, as was having two medical tents located by the Misting Forest.  

Reports came in that the Misting Forest was helpful for those who could locate it. Unfortunately, signage for it was not received by RTS, therefore the cooling station was underutilized by festivalgoers looking to beat the heat. The water bottle filling station was located inside the Misting Forest but was also reported to be difficult to find. 

In total, 688 medical contacts were made during the two-day event, including those who were in the cooling tent to those who needed treatment, ranging from IV fluids to aspirin. Of those medical contacts, 200 needed treatment or monitoring, and 10 patients were transported to local hospitals. 

Shane Quick of Rock the South said, “Overall, our medical numbers dropped significantly based on the percentage of attendees. Rock the South grew over 10,000 people per day this year. Our team worked very hard, adding free water stations, shaded picnic areas, Misting Forest and air-conditioned VIP tents. We believe these things, along with the hard work of our local responders, made Rock the South one of the safest festivals in America. We’re excited to continue this progress working to get these numbers to zero.” 

One medical contact was due to a 13-year-old child being hit in the head by a thrown beer bottle. Medical personnel transported the child out of the crowd and provided medical treatment.  

Law enforcement voiced concerns over beer bottles being sold this year instead of only cans. Reports of festivalgoers urinating in empty bottles and throwing them into the crowds were received by law enforcement who could see the bottles flying from the slightly elevated Front Porch area of the event. Despite witnessing the unsanitary disruptions, law enforcement officers were unable to identify the culprits nor were they able to make their way through the crowds. 

Also lost in the mail was RTS’ signage for the medical tents, which remained largely unidentifiable throughout the weekend, causing difficulties for country music fans.  

The Cullman County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) brought up what it said was a lack of communication regarding traffic on Friday night, stating that the staff overseeing parking in Lots A, B and C was not decided by RTS until Thursday night, and it was never communicated to CCSO. The CCSO also recommended that more than one officer would be helpful overnight for the RV park, where there were almost 400 passes sold with most RVs holding several concertgoers. 

Parking issues were discussed, including the need for color-coded parking lots to make attendees’ treks to their vehicles at the end of the evening easier. Approximately 28 private parking lots were open in various yards around the event with some being as far away as Fromhold Road, which brought up the concerns of golf carts being used to transport concertgoers across U.S. Highway 278 where the speed limit is in excess of 45 mph. 

Said Quick, “We consider Rock the South 2022 our most successful year on many fronts. One area of major improvement was the communication with city, county and state first responders. We are already making improvements for next year, including new signage specific for emergency calls, shade for patrons, etc. We have the best first responders in the land and we appreciate them greatly.” 

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