Leadership / 04.30.18
Event Security for the 2018 Festival Season and Beyond
After the deadly Route 91 Harvest festival shootings in Las Vegas last October, the bombing of an Ariana Grande concert in England last May as well as many other similarly tragic events, the live-music industry will never be the same. Now, with the 2018 outdoor festival season upon us, concertgoers are discovering greatly increased security measures.
Most are accepting the new reality, even if it has meant higher ticket prices in some instances. We spoke with Melanie Pearlman, Executive Director of the Counterterrorism Education Learning Lab (CELL), a nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing terrorism through education, empowerment and engagement, to gain an expert’s opinion on the current landscape of live event security.
"It is critical to raise the collective consciousness of everyone involved in the event, from the planners to the guests,” Pearlman says. “We need to be vigilant and remember 'See Something, Say Something.' Guests will feel safer knowing that staff, volunteers and vendors are all on the same page and working together to enhance security."
Pearlman did remind us that attacks on major entertainment and sporting events are nothing new. She listed everything from the Munich massacre during the 1972 Summer Olympics to the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013 to the terrorist mass shootings at France's Bataclan Theatre in 2015, during which 90 people were killed.
But new types of attacks are leading to new security tactics. Pearlman believes the elements of the attacks in Las Vegas and Manchester have taught security professionals and concert planners something profound: Physical security of an event can no longer only focus on the immediate footprint of that venue. "Attackers are shifting their tactics to exploit vulnerable characteristics of a target," she explained. "Specifically, where guests congregate at ingress and egress points just beyond the reach of event security."
As a result, extending perimeters and displacing ingress and egress routes will become a more common practice. The days of funneling every attendee through one main entry point are over.
Pearlman urged, "In this new landscape, it becomes that much more important to implement preparedness and prevention training. All of the stakeholders — including security, staff, volunteers and vendors — need to be educated on how to identify and report suspicious activity. Imagine a single event going from 100 security staff to more than 1,000 individuals who understand what suspicious behavior looks like and what to do with that information when they detect it. That’s possible with effective prevention and preparedness training."
And the biggest lesson learned from Las Vegas specifically? "We now have a myriad of lone actors who have their own ideas of what could be a fruitful target for an attack. What this equates to is we are looking for a needle in a stack of needles. The biggest lesson learned is that security personnel and public safety alone cannot prevent these attacks."
With regard to multiday festivals, security plans and personnel have to take into account a longer period of time where something tragic can happen. This presents a whole host of unique challenges and possible solutions. An excellent example is this past Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis. In the 10 days leading up to the game, more than 1 million visitors were expected to visit the Twin Cities and use every aspect of the infrastructure supporting it. Hotels, the Mall of America, eight miles of indoor walkway systems, light rail and bus systems would all be frequented at an unprecedented level.
"And yet, with more than 100 public safety agencies and private security officials at venues across the city, public safety leaders understood that additional support was critical to ensuring the cities’ safety," says Pearlman. "The CELL’s solution was to mobilize more than 15,000 city employees, event staff, vendors and volunteers to support security efforts without impacting their daily responsibilities. We taught them what to look for and established a reporting plan to communicate that information. Effectively, Minneapolis hardened their security through a network of empowered event staff, vendors and volunteers."
As for the here and now, the CELL is currently working with the GLBT Community Center of Colorado to train more than 400 event staff and volunteers for Denver PrideFest 2018 in June. More than 350,000 attendees are expected. Pearlman and her colleagues are also working with the Colorado State Patrol to train approximately 4,000 event staff and volunteers for the Colorado Classic cycling race in August, a four-stage competition in Denver and Vail.
Both events are actively working to enhance safety and security by implementing the CELL’s SAFETY-Act certified training initiative at their events." The training, called the Community Awareness Program (or CAP), helps ensure an event stays safe and secure by empowering staff and volunteers to become force multipliers for event security and public safety officials," Pearlman says. "In order to achieve this, staff and volunteers are trained on how to identify suspicious activity and how to report that information to the proper authorities."
So, with all this increased focus on safety and preparedness, is there a danger of having too heavy of a security presence to the point where events that should be fun no longer are? Pearlman was quick to answer, "There is no such thing as having too heavy of a security presence. It’s the way in which you utilize them. You don’t have to have armed guards at every entry point, but you do need to have trained staff that understand how to mitigate possible threats that may arise."
She added, "One of our primary goals for Super Bowl LII was to help ensure an incredible guest experience, while enhancing security and safety. A key element was to empower the volunteers, not frighten them. The volunteers became 'Champions for Safety,' and the entire tone of the training was uplifting, engaging and motivating. Event planners should strive to create ambassadors for fan safety who embrace that role and who are also ever mindful of the overall fan experience."
Do your teams know what to do if confronted with a threat to themselves, your audience or venue? Attend the session "Run, Hide, Fight: Preparing for and Reacting to an Active Shooter Incident" led by Bryan Gray, protective security advisor for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, at the INTIX 40th Annual Conference in Texas on Jan. 29-31, 2019.
Tags: Music, Theater, Security, Stadium