Special Event Security
Special event security planning is essential for ensuring that your organization has planned for all possible contingencies as they relate to security. Whether it is for a grand opening, Board or Share Holder’s meetings, business closing, a celebration, labor actions, or any number of other possible events that have the potential to increase your security risks and liability exposure it should be a high priority of your organization to thoroughly plan for the expected and unexpected.
What is a Special Event?
As indicated above there are many different events or situations where there needs to be special consideration for security. Look at it this way, whether your organization is planning a large celebration internally where only staff will be present or if your plans call for an anticipated large number of customers or attendees, it is important to review your security plans regardless if you have a security department or not.
In those cases where your organization has a security department they will likely have at least some experience in security planning for events where there will be a large number of attendees or VIPs such as dignitaries or celebrities. If they have no such experience in panning such an event, now would be the time to bring in a security expert to assist with the planning.
However, the majority of businesses in the United States do not have an internal security department and they have no one on staff that has experience in security risk assessments or planning. That being the case many businesses may contact their local police department for planning assistance. While that may work in some cases, not all police officers have experience in such planning. So when it comes time to assess your organization’s risks and vulnerabilities, or their potential liability exposure, this is not the time or place to go it alone.
As an example, the United States is on an elevated alert for possible “Homegrown” terrorism at this time, and there are identified risks associated with the national holiday (Independence Day) that is fast approaching. Also, we are well into a national election campaign where we will often find political figures holding events in very public settings across the country. Each and every one of these types of events brings an increase in security risks that need to be considered. While law enforcement may be planning for their areas of responsibilities, they will often not be able to assist private organizations with their planning.
Special Event Security Planning
When the time comes to plan for the security of a special event you may need to consider more than just physical security measures. For example here are some other considerations that may have an impact on the event, and if not properly handled may result in security issues:
- Traffic Control and Flow
- Crowd Control
With regards to parking this alone can result in an increased risk for violence (e.g. road rage and fights). Several years ago during the planning for an event that was expected to draw approximately 100,000 attendees coming in an estimated 30,000 cars, the planning for parking alone required coordination with city, county, state, and federal agencies, as well as hundreds of private businesses and residential property owners. For many years prior to this event the only planning for this event was crowd management, and as a result there were numerous fights over parking as well as numerous complaints regarding illegal parking.
For many years this community had held similar events and their plan for parking and traffic control was every person for themselves. When the event concluded everyone would head to their cars and hit the roads at the same time, causing a traffic mess that would go on for several hours. However, once they put into place a special event security plan that included parking management and traffic control (for both pedestrians and vehicles), they found that their incidents of road rage, fights, car verses pedestrian accidents all declined. They also found that the time that it took for all pedestrians and vehicles to get out of the area of the event was cut in half.
In simple terms it comes down to a well thought-out special event security planning strategy that takes into consideration all possible security risks as well as associated components.
Security Measures for Special Events
When it is time to plan for all possible security measures required for a special event, there is a lot that needs to be considered.
- How many attendees are you projecting?
- Will there be alcohol served or allowed to be brought in by attendees?
- Will this be an open event or by invitation only?
- Do you need to screen for weapons?
- Will you need security officers present, and if so what is their responsibility?
- Will the press/media be present, if so who will be responsible for handing them?
- Do you need to control access to the site?
- Are you expecting or anticipating any disruptions, potential violence, or protesters?
The above examples is nothing more than a fraction of the questions that have to be addressed, and each and every one of them will have numerous other considerations based on the answers to those questions. To sum it up, there is no “Cookie Cutter” approach for special event security planning, as no two events are identical.
Terrorism Risk for Special Events
In years past we as a country never really looked at certain civic events as being at risk for anything other than maybe parking or traffic issues. However, as we have seen over the years since September 11, 2001, there have been a number of threats focused on large public events, such as New Years, pro football events, and the 2013 bombing at the Boston Marathon. Many more threats are identified and mitigated during the early stages and never materialize into an actual attack, yet as the saying goes we have to be right 100% of the time and the people that want to harm us only have to be right one time.
As reported recently by the FBI and Department of Homeland Security the risks of “Homegrown” terrorism in the United States is at an all-time high. They also reported that there are ongoing investigations in all 50 states regarding potential terror suspects or those that may have become radicalized through online social media networking. So to think that a terror related attack cannot happen in some small town is not a defense. As a result your special event security planning process should take that into account, because planning can be a more effective strategy than reacting to an unplanned event. In other words, be proactive verses reactive.
Security Planning for Special Events
In closing, there really is no such thing as too much planning, and planning too little is a risk that is avoidable. The reality is that most planners do not give proper consideration to their security risks or potential liability exposure in the beginning. This becomes apparent as a security incident unfolds and there is confusion at first or the response is more along the lines of; what should we do?
It is possible as well to plan thoroughly and still have an unexpected incident occur, because as we saw with the terror attacks of September 11th some events are never on our radar screens in the first place. So can we prevent all security incidents during an event? Maybe not if the type of incident that happens has never before been considered as a possibility. Security professionals really need to think outside the box and perform their due diligence throughout the planning phase and also the implementation phase of each event. Think of it this way, if it can happen, plan for it.