Special Event Security – Seven Basic Steps You Need to Implement.
Special Event Security is like the theater – it’s a live performance with a huge cast and a lot of moving set pieces. No two performances, no two events, are identical. There are a multitude of things that can change without notice, and as in theater you must be prepared to adjust accordingly. It can be different every time. The bottom line is to ensure a safe and enjoyable event where security is looked at as an asset, and not a functional liability or expensive requirement.
No two Special Events are the same!
Concerts, speeches and athletic events have been and remain a target of violent extremists and terrorists around the globe. Fortunately, there exists a wealth of information to assist event planners and campus security personnel with preparing for large events and securing stadiums and arenas. In addition, there are some key lessons that have been learned from actual past incidents. These should be considered by those responsible for the safety and security of the event.
As personnel are trained and plans are developed, it is important to learn from past incidents. It is already well understood that the criminals are looking at what has been tried before. Security personnel must do the same! Here are some key lessons that should always be kept in mind.
- Security Posture Matters in Event Security
The visible efforts made to protect the people and facility are important. Things like bag checks, vehicle-free zones and uniformed personnel make a difference. This was illustrated in October 2005 when an individual attempted to take a backpack bomb into the crowded University of Oklahoma football stadium. When confronted with the mandatory bag search at the gate, he turned around and detonated it outside. The security staff at that checkpoint saved many lives that night.
- Maintain Constant Vigilance
Most people understand the need to be prepared to handle the crowd before the event. However, many (especially those paying the bills) don’t understand how important it is to keep security measures in place through the entire event. Security posture must be maintained until the crowd has left. While it may be possible to reduce some personnel (like reducing the number of magnetometer stations open), nobody should be able to enter the facility at any time without going through the same screening that those entering at the beginning. Many of the attacks across the world have taken place after the crowd was inside and the event was underway. At this point, the crowd’s attention is focused on the performers, allowing an attacker to move without being noticed.
- Secure the Outside
The better the security is inside a venue, the more likely it is that the perpetrator will decide to carry out the attack outside. Areas of potential concern and where additional security measures should be considered include:
- mass transit (bus, train, subway) stations,
- tailgate areas,
- merchandise locations,
- parking lots,
- nearby restaurants & hotels.
The attackers will often be looking for large, dense gatherings of people. The more these locations can be spread out, the more difficult it will be for attackers to select their target. For instance, have taxi pickup areas separated from bus pickup; and merchandise sales areas away from exits. At the same time, security personnel should be positioned to monitor these areas. While security cameras can be valuable, nothing takes the place of having ‘eyes on-scene’. That is, personnel on site to spot things such as an unusually tight grip on a backpack, a diverted look, or nervous behavior.
- Incorporate Several Layers of Security
The Security Plan needs to incorporate multiple layers. The first layer might start with the traffic control personnel. These professionals security personnel enforce limitations on vehicle access to the venue. There should also be a layer of security looking for criminal behavior. Specifically, looking for criminal activtiy before the individual(s) get to a security checkpoint. In the current climate, bag checks have become commonplace, followed by magnetometers or pat-down searches. In many instances, these are demanded by the performers/artists.
Inside the facility, additional measures should be taken to both monitor for criminal activity and to prepare for response. The response should include getting people safely to exits, as well as getting emergency responders inside, to the scene of an incident.
- Communicate with Attendees
One of the biggest challenges safety personnel can encounter is dealing with large numbers of attendees bringing in prohibited items. This clogs up checkpoints, creating a large target immediately outside the facility. It can also lead to security personnel becoming complacent. If every attendee seems to be carrying something they shouldn’t, it makes it hard to detect the actual criminals in the crowd. Finally, long lines at the entry points leads to a lot of unhappy customers. Unhappy customers are less likely to see the security team as something positive. Notifying the public in advance via ticketing outlets and social media can make a big difference. Communication is the key to success.
- Locate Security Command Center Offsite
In decades past, it was common for the Security Plans to have the Emergency Operations Center located in the venue. It was thought this would make it easy for people to find them. Unfortunately, this also made them easy targets. Terrorist know that they can cause additional chaos & damage if they first take out the Command Post. As a result, many locations have started moving the Command Post (Operations Center) to a secure, offsite location. While there might still be an office inside the venue, the offsite personnel can still coordinate an appropriate response.
- Adopt a Unified Approach
It is more important than ever that all emergency response personnel work together. A coordinated response is not a recommendation, it is a mandatory requirement for all Special Event Security Planning. This is especially true for stadiums and arenas. An example of how critical this is can be seen with the current trend of terrorist incorporating ‘fire’ their attacks. Emergency personnel must be prepared to quickly identify whether a ‘fire emergency’ is part of a larger attack or an isolated incident.
Learn from Past Incidents!
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.