H&E North looks at event security after the recent terror attacks, as security rises to the top of event planners’ agendas.
As a solemn cloud shadowed the UK after the events in Manchester on 22nd May, the events industry and the security personnel may have expected to be thrust into the centre of a national debate about the existing dangers of attending events and the changing nature of terrorism in the UK.
But the resilience of the industry shone through once again, proving that venues, event organisers, general managers and key industry thinkers were ready to condemn the atrocity and remain defiant. Led by Sheona Southern, Managing Director of Marketing Manchester, the region and the events industry alike joined together to denounce the act: “This was an attack at the heart of our great city at people enjoying a night out. It was a shocking act, but what has been heartening has been the reaction from our emergency services and the people of Greater Manchester who have responded with bravery, love and support. They represent the true spirit of Manchester. We won’t let acts like this affect our city’s outward-looking, tolerant and welcoming heart.”
The British Security Industry Association (BSIA), whose members are responsible for more than 70% of privately provided UK security products and services, emphasised that “in times of emergency – and in day-to-day operations – private security personnel provide essential support to local police forces, and are often the ‘unsung heroes’ helping to ensure the continued safety and security of the British public.” Meanwhile, Jane Longhurst, Chief Executive of the Meetings Industry Association (mia) has stressed the need to assess the security issues at hand: “As we have unfortunately witnessed, the capabilities and tactics of terror organisations and criminals continually evolve. Security provision needs to be viewed as a necessary investment rather than a cost and fully integrated to maximise its effectiveness.”
So what can be done? Alan Meyerick, Senior Risk Analyst for G4S, the British multinational security services company, explained how event security, particularly at sporting events, has improved and continues to improve best practice, legislation and its industry standards: “Venues, whether concert halls, festivals, stadiums or arenas, are often naturally secure sites…the addition of security stewards to conduct access control and search regimes as well as technical security measures creates a relatively robust security environment. But Alan also points out that the time and effort to pass through venue security to the safer internal environment means that people are potentially exposed to greater risk while waiting to enter or exit in a crowd, so event managers and law enforcement agencies will face an ongoing challenge and that enhanced security cordons during entry and exit may need to be implemented.
For the Event Organiser
So what can we do in the industry to reassure our guests and ensure safety as much as possible? Obviously larger events, should budget allow, will benefit from a specialist security company like G4S overseeing the event and offering their advice and experience, and leaving it to the experts will save you time, and hassle. But if not, the Health & Safety Executive offers a few guidelines to consider when developing your next gathering:
- Consider the key risks to the event and those people present. Using the resources available to you on-site, develop emergency procedures to be followed by staff and volunteers in an emergency, e.g. a fire or structural failure.
- Include contingencies to deal with incidents and situations as varied as an entertainment act cancelling at short notice, severe weather, or the unavailability of key staff in your team.
- Consider your response to more serious emergencies, including major incidents that will require the help of the emergency services and implementation of their regional emergency plans (which may not be specific to the event).
- Draw up and discuss your plans with the police, fire and rescue service, ambulance service, emergency planning and, for fixed premises like stadiums and arenas, the venue management.
- Appoint people to implement your procedures if there is an incident or emergency.
- Plan escape routes and make sure they remain available and unobstructed. Consider signs for people unfamiliar with the venue layout and light all escape routes sufficiently for people to use them safely in an emergency.
- Make sure that all relevant staff members, no matter what their normal working role, understand what they should do in an emergency, for example the location of exits, emergency equipment, how to raise the alarm and from whom they should receive instructions.
- Balance on-site medical and ambulance provision against existing local NHS and ambulance service provision and capacity. For larger events, plans should be drawn up in conjunction with the local NHS ambulance service to clarify how patients will be taken to hospital.
- If the emergency services declare an emergency or a major incident on-site at an event, all of the event personnel and resources will work under the command of the police. However, it may be that the police declare one part of the event as under their authority but leave other parts of the event under the control of the event organiser.
Vigilance is vital, the recent events around the world cannot stop our industry from doing what it does best: bringing people together to learn, have fun, innovate and create. By showing how face-to-face interaction, collaboration and congregation can have a force for good in the world, our community will continue to thrive in the face of external forces that seek to dismantle the resolve and good will of the events trade.