KeywordsCelebratory event security Commemorative event security Diplomatic event security Entertainment event security Festival event security Mass gathering event security Religious event security Special event security Sporting event security
For the purposes of this unit, event security can be defined as the plans, design, and implementation of measures required to create and maintain a safe environment for a planned event that includes attendance and participation of a private or public nature.
Physically securing events is not a new phenomenon; however, over the past 20 years (1998–2018), the globally accepted approach has evolved into a methodology where all hazards of a reasonable nature are factored into the security plan. This topic will be addressed in a manner that allows the reader to gain an understanding of the potential risks which could cause a disruption to an event, how securing an event should be accomplished, and the potential consequences event security managers much consider, such as postponing the event to experiencing a crisis where death and/or serious physical injury to those on site is likely to occur.
Types of Events
Entertainment (e.g., music festivals, concerts, and parades)
Ceremonial (e.g., college graduation commencement)
Sporting (e.g., Olympics, FIFA World Cup)
Faith-based (e.g., the Hajj to Mecca)
Diplomatic (e.g., G7 Economic Summit, US Presidential Inauguration)
Events such as the examples listed above are not unique to one particular country or culture. These events are generally social in nature, with an announced time and place. The size of attendance is often driven by the type of event. For example, a college graduation commencement may take place depending on the size of the graduating class and audience scheduled to participate and attend, respectively. Similarly, an entertainment event may take place at a venue considered large enough to appropriately host the anticipated patrons. Sporting events such as golf require an approach different than a stadium due to the expansive nature of the area where the competition takes place. No single approach to securing an event can be duplicated without tailoring it the unique nature of the event. Many security components do have general application; however a review of previous security plans for similar events is recommended to compare and adopt or dismiss based on any unique needs of the upcoming event.
Event Venue Nomenclature
Back of the House (BOH)
This term is likely sourced to eating establishments and performing arts venues. The “back of the house” (BOH) is often referred to the areas where workers, talent, equipment, product, etc. are entering or produced in the venue. General public or ticketed public do not normally enter the venue from back of the house entrances. This is an important reference term to remember when creating an event security plan.
Front of the House (FOH)
This term is applied to where the public or invited guests enter the venue during scheduled event times. The front of the house (FOH) is where crowds both enter and exit an event unless event operations open additional exits at the conclusion of an event.
Building an Event Security Plan
Threats Versus Hazards
It is very important to distinguish how an event may be of risk. A threat is generally understood to be of a man-made nature, where a hazard is a result of a natural occurrence (e.g., blizzard, earthquake, wildfire, and flooding). Both threats and hazards must be factored into the design and development of a security operation.
Many security professionals and their clients confuse threats and hazards. Hazards can be either natural or man-made and are generally unintentional or without malice. Threats are always man-made and intentional and with malice. (Norman 2016, p. 111).
Threats may be detected and deterred through preventative countermeasures. Natural hazards such as severe weather are not likely preventable, but mitigation measures and emergency response protocols can be put in place in advance to lessen the chances of damage to property or personal physical injury. Regardless of the potential danger that has been identified, the level of risk must be predetermined in order to effectively mitigate hazards or counter threats.
Before determining the degree of risk faced by an event, assessing the contributing factors that will constitute the risk is prudent. Today’s security professional understands the importance of conducting a risk assessment of an event and the environment of which it will take place. When conducting the initial assessment, it is recommended that all physical vulnerabilities be identified.
After fully understanding the operating environment, note any physical security vulnerabilities that could be exploited by threat actors in this operating environment. These may include unintended access points; abuse of normal access points by stealth, trickery, or intimidation; and types of assets any threat actor might be interested in. (Norman 2016, p. 93).
In addition to a vulnerability assessment, a threat assessment must also be conducted to determine any negative interest a person or group might direct toward the event. This includes their threat vector or path and tools used in the attack. Threats may emanate from groups or individuals. Intuitively, threats are likely to originate from outside an event venue, but a comprehensive threat assessment must include the “insider threat.” This type of threat actor may be already employed by the venue or a company under contract to provide services to the venue and/or event. Many companies are brought together, particularly in sporting and entertainment events, to bring the event to a successful conclusion. Not requiring “in-house” organizations and contracted organizations to conduct background checks on their employees before working an event creates a porous threat environment. The overall “workforce” at an event must be factored into the threat picture. Outside threats can source from hate groups, criminal enterprises, and extremist groups to name a few.
The final area to factor into a risk assessment of an event is the consequences, or negative impact of an incident. Prominent examples would be the devastating effects caused by natural disasters. In the context of analyzing risk for events, this would include severe weather. Outdoor events in particular such as sporting competitions and parades can sustain considerable property damage and potential injuries to participants and attendees if the consequences of a severe weather event are not factored into the overall risk mitigation plan.
Weather should factor in your risk assessment, and you should come up with contingency plans for your various ‘what if’ scenarios. For example, you might be hosting a celebrity golf tournament that will attract thousands of visitors. What contingency plans must you have in place if there is a sudden violent thunderstorm with hundreds of spectators seeking cover from lightning strikes under the trees? You must have the capability of being alerted in good time of approaching storms, and all stewards must be fully aware of what action to take should the need to evacuate the course arise. (Walton and Philpott 2011, p. 10).
Patron screening equipment operation and techniques
Bag search techniques
Hostile surveillance detection
The cost of equipment would also not affect the overall budget of the operational security plan. All elements in place would be driven by a seamless process that ensures operational readiness. This is of course not reality.
Event security is unique in that crowd flow and the amount of time allotted for admittance before an event will drive the design of screening at entrances and the items permitted into the event. It is important to clearly understand any limitations placed on entering patrons by the event organizer or host venue. Prohibited items posted on signage outside the venue and on the event website have proven very effective in reducing the number of prohibited items identified by screeners at the entrance gates. An example would be liquids. Some events allow bottled water, while other events do not allow any liquids unless for medical/health purposes. Limiting items and the size of bags entering an event may reduce baggage screening to visual searches by event security personnel. This is, however, not as effective as a bag of any size being searched by a trained event security screener.
Event Access Control
Those responsible for determining the level of access control effectively control the event. Planned and/or scheduled events are well-advised to implement ticketing for access during the scheduled event. Internal areas require credentials to provide access for authorized individuals who are permitted to enter restricted areas. Credentials are issued to various groups to include workers, special guests, and entertainment groups. Credentials do not supersede the physical screening measures outlined below. Everyone entering a venue whether they are spectators or engaged in a working capacity must be screened to ensure consistent protective measures are in place at the venue.
Ticketing and Invitations
Events with no restriction regarding who is allowed to enter can be conceptualized as having a host of potential issues. Among the top concerns would be the inability to determine in advance the amount of space required to safely assemble the attending crowd. This creates challenges especially for both event security providers and public safety entities who develop their deployment plan of personnel and equipment based on projected crowd size. A ticketed event or event that restricts attendance to a predetermined guest list allows for a properly staffed and equipped event security operation.
Walk-through metal detectors
Handheld metal detectors
Patron screening is recommended to be positioned outside the venue if possible or minimally at the venue entrances.
Bag Search Screening
This critical element is dependent on any size or style limitations set forth by the venue or sanctioning body, i.e., sporting league or conference. Tables positioned in immediate proximity to the patron screening operation allow for patrons and their belonging to be checked in a manner that eliminates items to be discretely moved from the patron to the bag or vice versa. Items of an illegal, prohibited, or suspicious nature should be immediately brought to the attention of nearby authorities. It is recommended that bags be visually inspected and, when a questionable item is observed, the patron be requested to remove the item and place it on the table.
Vehicles permitted to enter the back of house delivery areas, i.e., loading dock or adjacent parking lots within the established venue perimeter, would be screened in accordance with the back of the house section of the event security plan. Setback is a term used to describe the distance between public areas and entrances to the venue. A properly designed perimeter plan includes creating as much setback as reasonably possible. Urban-situated venues often have minimal setback due to the dense streetscapes surrounding the venue. Regardless of the setback from public streets and sidewalks, it is recommended that an access control checkpoint be established with anti-ramming technology in place. Vehicle and occupants should be on a pre-authorized list in order to enter the venue grounds. The manner in which vehicles are screened should be in accordance with venue-approved improvised explosive device protocols or defer to on-site public safety personnel assigned to perform this function. Optimally, all vehicles such as delivery trucks and team buses should be screened prior to entering the venue. An exception might be team buses coming from a secure location such as an airport. They are generally permitted to enter with a police escort that has ensured the integrity of screened buses.
Event Exterior Concerns
Ingress Crowd Flow
Add surveillance detection officers on the exterior out front of the entrances on event day to look for inappropriate or pre-attack behavior.
Coordinate with your local law enforcement agency to determine if they have officers assigned to detect hostile surveillance or pre-attack behavior.
Work with both your local law enforcement agency and recommended private security companies to have specially trained K-9 teams that can detect vapors emitted by individuals carrying or wearing explosive materials.
Egress Crowd Flow
Extend your event security coverage to redeploy personnel outside the venue to ensure any barriers set up to manage the egress are not compromised.
Coordinate with law enforcement to ensure uniformed officers are positioned at and near the exit points to detect and/or respond to suspicious behavior exhibited by persons observing exiting patrons.
Extend the assignments of your canine explosive detection teams to be patrolling the periphery of the venue for potential threat actors carrying or wearing explosive devices.
Ensure that the exterior perimeter plan developed by you and law enforcement extends from your venue to adjacent mass transit stations such as trains or subways.
Survey the walkways connecting to your venue to determine if vertical posts known as bollards are positioned in a pattern that prevents a passenger vehicle from accessing the sidewalks from a street. Fixed metal posts are known as traffic bollards, but temporary barriers can also be purchased or leased to fill any gaps. Collapsible or retractable bollards are a good choice for back of the house locations such as loading docks.
Coordinate with law enforcement counterparts to determine where large vehicles such as trucks or buses may be parked to temporarily block vehicle access on event day.
- Accidents or assaults involving talent
Artists injured due to slips, trips, and falls
Artists grabbed or pushed by patrons
Lack of properly positioned and staffed movable barricades for crowd management
Employ hostile surveillance teams at locations outside ingress and egress points of the venue to identify and alert authorities when pre-attack behavior is detected.
Coordinate with law enforcement counterparts to determine if a counter-sniper plan and assets are in place due to locations at a distance that might offer a shooter to clearly target patrons.
Offer security personnel to assist law enforcement in posting vantage points of concern for the purpose of observing and reporting the presence of a potential threat actor.
- Mosh pits (rough physical activity by concert-goers in front stage area) (Mosh Pit Definition 2018)
Injuries to concert goers and event staff possible
- Crowd surfing (concert-goers physically passed overhead in a prone position) (Crowd Surfing 2018)
Injuries and unwanted touching can be the consequences.
- Intoxication (this has both health and legal implications for intoxicated fans)
Arrest for alcohol intoxication and serious physiological reactions possible
- Illicit drug use (combined with alcohol increases chances of overdosing) (Illicit Drugs at Music Festivals 2018)
Amnesty boxes are often positioned at screening areas to offer patrons an option of disposing of drugs before being screened or bags searched.
Crowd density (mass gathering without metering or evacuation measures can escalate if not monitored to conditions with catastrophic consequences) (Love Parade Music Festival 2018)
A complete event security plan has event security staff prepositioned between the performance areas and the crowd as well as in key areas to ensure movement of crowds to reduce crowd density that occurs due to overloading of stage-front viewing areas. Event personnel are often positioned in the “pit area” which is located between a standing crowd of concert-goers and the stage. Security personnel who work in this area during concerts are often referred to as the “pit crew.”
The Importance of Collaboration and Coordination
Event security planners cannot create an effective plan in a vacuum. It is imperative that all key stakeholders ranging from venue management to assigned public safety agencies collaborate on the plan. Some may have different objectives, but all share a common goal of having a safe event.
Events, large or small, potentially draw negative attention. Tactics ranging from small-scale attacks to deploying weapons of mass destruction all fall within the threat spectrum. Be ready by being prepared and resourceful. The threat actor only has to get it right once. You must get it right for every event.
- Crowd Surfing. http://www.geeksandbeats.com/2014/06/the-origins-of-crowd-surfing-who-did-it-first/. Accessed 07 May 2018.
- Illicit Drugs at Music Festivals. https://www.recovery.org/topics/drug-use-music-festivals/. Accessed 07 May 2018.
- Las Vegas Strip Shooting. https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2017/national/las-vegas-shooting/?utm_term=.2ed14f1aea43. Accessed 08 May 2017.
- Love Parade Music Festival. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/jul/.../love-parade-festival-tunnel-stamped. Accessed 07 May 2018.
- Manchester Evening News. https://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/manchester-arena-terror-attack-19-13075943. Accessed 07 May 2018.
- Mosh Pit Definition. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mosh%20pit. Accessed 07 May 2018.
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