Security Planning for your Special Event

Law Enforcement & Security Professionals charged with Security Planning for Special Events has never been more difficult & today’s Terror Threat has never been higher.

Today’s terrorists can operate alone or in concert with an underground cell capable of causing immense destruction, devastation and death.  And afterwards, they can easily disappear!  Not just leave a neighborhood, but cross border states and flee a country. While the FBI and their law enforcement partners do what they can to ensure safety, it’s an informed, proactive, public observing and reporting suspicious circumstances that will be vital to stopping the next attack. Situational awareness and a cooperating public … reporting unusual conditions that deviate from the norm … are law enforcement’s best chance to identify a threat and prevent an attack.  Looking for evidence of terrorism, individuals charged with special event security need to have a robust campaign reminding the public that their safety requires their (the public’s) vigilance.

Terrorists usually engage in “telltale” betraying behaviors, prior to launching an attack. Not unlike a gambler who scratches his/her nose when making a “bluff,” these behaviors or “tells” are detectable. We call these, PRE-INCIDENT INDICATORS!

Being observant and/or familiar with your surroundings can be helpful to law enforcement.  We train our Clients to “establish the norm for your environment; then, look for the abnormal“.  Once the abnormal is recognized, you then need trained individuals to address the potential threat. I call them, “Intervention Capable Personnel” (ICP).


To the outsider, these Intervention Capable Personnel (ICP) come across as great customer service; when in fact, these ICP’s are conducting a security assessment of the person who does not fit the norm.  Trained ICPs approach those individuals who have attracted security’s attention, shake their hands (are their palms sweaty or clammy?); welcome them to the event (do they maintain eye contact? fidgeting? nervous?); look at their attire (dressed for the occasion? bulges to indicate concealed weapons?); and ask them simple questions to illicit a response (is this your first time here? are you excited for the show?) to ascertain whether they have a legitimate reason to be at the venue site.

Terrorism experts suggest large venues should constantly run ad campaigns telling the public, “See something … say something.” Law enforcement people call it, “Situational Awareness.” Organizing and planning an attack, all terrorists leave “tells.” Taking a moment to analyze your surroundings, reporting things outside the norm, might be society’s best chance to thwart an attack. Unless the would-be terrorist conceals their tracks, someone skilled in “situational awareness” might very well detect their efforts.

Looking for a “soft” target, terrorists want to find venues with little or no security precautions, easy access, and large crowds.

Terrorist will conduct surveillance operations days & weeks before the event.

Terrorist do conduct reconnaissance on their targets.  They analyze potential targets looking for opportunities “missed” by security experts.  Terrorists want the ‘easy’ target.  They are hoping to take advantage of an overlooked vulnerability.  “Soft” targets are tough venues for authorities to secure, particularly since they’re so many locations where an explosive device can be concealed. Typical “soft” targets include sport stadiums, special events, corporate meetings, music concerts, theme parks, airports, transportation centers, hotels, bridges, subway systems, state fairs and shopping malls. These ‘common spaces’ are in every city and small town.  The Security Planners should promote ad campaigns talking about “situational awareness,” reminding the public they are the best defense against a terrorist attack, e.g. “See something … say something.”

Leverage everyone participating in the event as a part of your security planning.

Anytime you have a publicized special event or soft target venue where authorities think their is a credible threat; the public should be forewarned! To get the publics’ help they need to be informed about the threat.  Often times public officials balk at informing the public of the true threat for fears of reducing the number of paying attendees.  Alerting guests, giving them an active role in their security, exponentially makes a venue safer.

Likewise, not having an established security plan, exponentially makes a venue less safe. Use social media to communicate with your guests months before the event.  Educate them and empower them to be a part of your security plan.  Waiting for a terrorist to walk up to a venue wearing a suicide vest and/or flashing a weapon, authorities can only “react” to a threat versus implement a plan … leaving precious little time to resolve an incident safely.

A terrorism incident has an “immediate” detrimental impact on a company’s bottom line, bringing with it “not” only unwanted media attention, but dramatic economic consequences.  Reduced attendance and declining revenues can have a long-term, drastic impact on the company’s profit. Proactive awareness and security planning done correctly mitigates impact. Planning for a high-profile event, security professionals need to combine liaison, LE intelligence, experience, techniques and resources with pre-emptive procedures … all designed to mitigate the consequence of an attack.

Recognizing “bad” actors along with “indicators” of planning an attack is key to thwarting the next terrorist attack.

Identifying and arresting terrorists & uncovering terror plots before they happen can be accomplished.  Training your ENTIRE staff to recognize specific signals or ‘indicators’ of a planned incident is key.  This training consists of recognizing:

  • SURVEILLANCE – Investigators should be alert for individuals conducting illicit surveillance activities; to include:
    • reconnaissance or scouting,
    • illicit surveillance logs,
    • timing security rotations,
    • observing security operations,
    • use of binoculars, cameras or maps in areas where they are not required,
    • loitering for extended periods of time,
    • counter surveillance.

Intelligence Collection is also done by the Terrorists.

  • INTELLIGENCE – Investigators should be alert for individuals conducting intelligence operations; such as:
    • identifying CCTV locations,
    • locating possible blind spots to avoid detection,
    • photographing buildings for use in an attack plan,
    • identifying windows, doors, fences, delivery bay areas, parking lots and other significant infrastructure,
    • individuals seeking employment solely to monitor and report security activities,
    • individuals being unusually inquisitive about security practices.
  • FUNDING – Financial Investigators need to be alert for individuals conducting suspicious financial transactions, to include:
    • suspicious (large or numerous) deposits or withdrawals,
    • use of pre-paid debit cards,
    • numerous credit cards in different surnames,
    • unexplained wire transfers
    • donation schemes meant to generate unusual sums of money which may be used to fund the purchase of explosive materials or weapons.
  • STOCKPILING SUPPLIES – Investigators need to be alert for individuals collecting suspicious bomb making materials, including chemicals, fertilizer and propane tanks, as well as components that can be used as shrapnel. Also, investigators need to be mindful of someone stockpiling weapons and ammunitions.
  • SUSPICIOUS PERSONS, SIGNS OF TAMPERING, UNATTENDED VEHICLES / PACKAGES – Investigators need to be alert for individuals making repeated returns to the same site, by the same person;
    • identify & approach those loitering wearing unusually bulky clothing in hot humid weather;
    • people loitering and displaying nervous demeanor,
    • individuals acting suspiciously when approached by law enforcement or security personnel;
    • tampering with air in-takes for heating, ventilation and air conditioning units;
    • vehicles illegally parked, particularly near large crowds, buildings, and places where guests gather in large numbers;
    • unattended packages, backpacks and/or briefcases, particularly within a crowded area and/or walkway.
  • TESTING SECURITY – Investigators need to be alert for individuals testing security operations.
    • Stop & Question those moving thru accessed controlled areas marked “off-limits,”
    • individuals observing security operations, or detecting perimeter flaws.
    • Responding to an unattended package or backpack security personnel need to be aware of anyone watching their operations, analyzing response time and personnel.
    • Security personnel need to challenge unauthorized persons in “employee only” designated areas, looking for individuals attempting to gain access to backstage areas and penetrate security.
    • Investigators need to be alert for individuals making dry run rehearsals or practice runs.
  • UNIFORMS, BADGES & OFFICIAL VEHICLES – Investigators need to be alert for individuals stealing uniforms, badges and/or official vehicles to gain access to secure areas and/or deceive personnel during an attack.

The key to any security plan is good SITUATIONAL AWARENESS by all those involved.  Law Enforcement, Vendors, Guests, Caterers, Valets, etc., all need to be alert for behavior, expressions and actions suggesting an attack. Awareness can thwart a terrorist incident. Recognition of these indicators can mean the difference between a catastrophe and a “fun, safe, enjoyable Special Event”.

Contact Shaffer Security Group today to develop, implement & manage the security plan for your large or small, public or private, Special Event.  We will work with local law enforcement, private security, vendors, caterers, and your staff to ensure your event is fun, enjoyable and safe.

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