Tips for ensuring your event attendees’ safety and security
For many, summertime means events season. Whether you’re into music, literature or cheese rolling, you’re sure to find an event or festival to match. Along with the more established events, more and more people are organising their own festivals, some of which have become hugely popular in a relatively short amount of time. SXSW, for example, went from 700 people watching a few local bands at its inauguration to the biggest music, film and tech festival in the world. It also launched the careers of John Mayer, the Polyphonic Spree and, more regrettably, James Blunt.
If you’re looking to organise an event, whether new or established, it’s vitally important that the people attending your event can enjoy it in safety. Recent tragedies have lead to people becoming more watchful and wary at events than usual. So it’s your job to do everything you can to put the paying public’s minds at ease.
In this article, we’ve listed a few vital safety considerations to make while you plan your event.
Choose the right venue
Planning your event security needs to be at the forefront of your mind right from the off. And selecting the right venue is a big part of that.
Create a profile of your event and include all the activities that will take place, the estimated audience size and their demographic. The audience at a children’s book festival, for example, will have very different needs to an EDM festival. This will give you a better idea of the kind of venue you should be looking for. Once you think you’ve found a suitable one, make sure to visit the event venue and keep in mind the following:
For health and security reasons, it is vitally important that your venue can accommodate the number of visitors. Overcrowding is incredibly dangerous and illegal. But you also need to think, are they going to be seated or standing, or both? Will people be moving from area to another? If so, where are the potential bottlenecks? Ensuring people have enough room to move and are comfortable will go a long way to keeping them content and comfortable while removing any unnecessary tension.
Obviously, people need to be able to get to the event, so think carefully about where you place it. A more niche, local event will need to be easily accessible by people in that locale. An event for trumpet enthusiasts will probably need to be a bit further away from civilisation. An event within a city is easy for people to get to but is likely to attract uninvited guests which can lead to overcrowding and the potential for confrontations. If it’s taking place on public property there will be different permissions involved than if it were taking place on private property, so be aware of the kind of licenses and insurance you might need.
So that everyone can get into the event, you’ll need to make sure that pedestrians and vehicles are able to access and exit the venue easily. You’ll also need to consider whether or not disabled people, people in wheelchairs and pushchairs need to be accommodated. Hugely important is to check that there are enough emergency exits and whether or not they’re easy to find.
Managing a crowd can be really difficult, especially at large scale events with high numbers of visitors spread over a wide area. Wherever possible you should look to employ the services of trained security guards. Larger venues will have their own teams or have a contract with a security firm. Using the existing security team means they have a better knowledge of the venue and its security facilities.
Communication between security personnel is key for maintaining crowd control. Professional Mobile Radios (PMR) are very much the favoured solution for many security firms. They provide full control over the system, while coverage and capacity can be tailored to exactly match the size and location of the event. Determining the coverage area is the first thing you want to know. From that you can determine what kind of radio system you will need, be it simplex, conventional with repeaters or trunking.
Specialist systems, like Hytera’s XPT system, have an ‘all call’ feature, which allows the broadcast of urgent messages to all festival staff. So if there is a major event that everyone needs to be aware of, the system can kill all the radios and enable one voice instruction to be transmitted to everyone.
Utilising digital check-ins will help to eliminate the process of manual check-ins. This removes the need for large groups to gather with nothing to do but wait. It also helps to create a reliable database of the event’s attendees, allowing event organisers to easily identify any unauthorised members.
As part of the check-in, you should also set specific guidelines for bringing in bags and other items. Identify beforehand what is and what isn’t allowed to come into the venue and make this information clear to the security team and the visitors. This will help you to minimise the risk of people bringing in items that could cause harm to themselves or others.
Create an emergency plan
A risk-based emergency plan needs to be agreed upon and put in place well in advance of the event. The level of emergency planning put in place should be proportionate to the event. Ambulances on standby probably won’t be required for a cheese tasting festival, but they would if you’re planning a strongman event.
Some standard emergency risks to consider are injury, fire, bomb threats and natural hazards, though there may be others due to the locality or type of event. Some emergencies tend towards certain activities more than others, so you should consider your risks in light of your activity and plan accordingly. Ensure you have considered all potential risks and create appropriate responses for each.
Many festivals are now having to deal with new security threats in the form of cyber security. To ensure your event doesn’t fall victim to cyber security attacks, consider the following as part of your security plan.
Monitor social media
Monitor all your social media accounts and the audience that engages with your posts. Hacking of social media accounts is common and can be very disruptive to an event organiser. Once hacked, the hacker can write anything they want, seemingly from the event organisers themselves.
You should also keep an eye on what people are saying about the event. Many criminals will make plans to infiltrate or disrupt events over social media channels like Twitter and Facebook, so do regular searches for the name of your event in case people are making nefarious plans.
For the majority of events nowadays, your audience will expect to be able to register and buy tickets online. As an event organiser, online payments will also make your life easier as you’ll have a database of who’s interested, who’s coming and who’s paid. Having a secure payment portal, therefore, is vital.
If you’re not particularly tech-savvy, use a trusted payment platform like Paypal. This will not only provide you with a reliable platform, but it will also instil trust in your customers who will recognise a quality brand.
If you do decide to build your own payment gateway, you must ensure it is encrypted properly. Nothing destroys the public’s faith in a company like losing their personal data.
When your event is underway, your security team need to be in constant communication to ensure there are no potential risks developing. They should be reporting on how the planning you’ve prepared is being delivered and handling any possible problems according to the plan.
These are just some points to take note of, as every event has their own set of unique hazards and security risks. Although you can’t plan for every possible mishap, it is important to be meticulous in planning your event so that you can mitigate any threat to the safety of your customers.
Once the event has finished without any major security incidents, it’s important to review and reflect on your event and determine whether or not there are any improvements you can make for next time. Talk to your team about any near-misses – incidents that didn’t cause any problems this time but have the potential for next time. Look into these events and determine what you can do next time to avoid them altogether.
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