Securing Your Event
A Quick Overview for Event Owners and Planners
What are we trying to accomplish in Event Security?
My answer to this may or may not surprise you. Securing an event is about creating a bubble around the people participating in the event and activities of the event. Creating a secure bubble is accomplished regardless of geographical location, regardless of the participants, through qualified and cost-effective measures. It is essential that the layers of this created bubble do not hinder the activities of an event and not be obtrusive.
As the owner or planner of an event, you must work with a security provider that can scale the security of your event without you or the provider taking shortcuts.
Not every event requires deploying a full contingent of personnel, services and technological equipment. The scale of services required will depend upon the results of the risk analysis provided.
The first event I ever provided security for was a corporate event held within a public venue not closed to general visitors to the site. The attendees of the event included C Suite executives, customers, vendors, and their families. The expectations of the event owner were merely to have security personnel as a presence during the event with no pre-planning or analysis.
As a young security business owner, I wanted the opportunity and needed the job so having the knowledge that the expectations of the event owner did not meet the real need I had to come up with a plan that would allow me to accomplish the requirements of securing the event without giving the appearance of overstepping my charge. What this also meant was I would have much work to do that was not compensated for through the hourly service fee for the actual time worked at the event. Having said this, I would not consider doing this today. I have learned what it takes to meet the security needs and how to translate those needs into business sense.
As the owner or planner of an event, it is essential that you have an understanding of the financial needs to make the event safe and secure for the enjoyment of everyone participating. The budget for securing your event is a factor in what you are willing to spend or what you will charge for attending the event.
Expectations and Requirements
The first step in approaching the security of any event is to understand the who, what, why, where’s and how’s of the event. Each of these understandings must be answered multiple times for a complete analysis of the security plan.
Here are some examples of what security should know. Although this is indeed not an exhaustive list, it does give you some fundamental questions that will require answers in the security planning.
Who… are the owners of the event?
Who… are the planners?
Who… will be attending?
Who… is charged with securing the event?
What… are the initial expectations of the event owners?
What… type of event is it? Corporate shareholders, employee participated event, product rollout, or some other event?
What… activities to consider within or in conjunction with the event?
What… areas of responsibilities fall under the security team?
What… is the weather climate for the location and timing of the event?
Why… do the owners have these expectations?
Why… is the security required for the event?
Why… specific requests are needed?
Where… do the owners of the event place the importance of security?
Where… is will the event take place?
Where… will you get the resources for the event?
From where do the participants come?
How… did the owners of the event come to the expectations initially shared?
How… will the planning be conducted?
How… will the security plan be rolled out?
Creating an understanding with the stakeholders of the event is essential. At the end of the day whoever is paying the bill for the event has the final say in all of the questions captioned; this is whom we refer to as the “owner” of the event.
In the securing of an event, it is imperative those managing the security have a thorough understanding of what expectations to meet and the relationship between the ideals that created the expectations and the mission of having a safe and secure event. The analysis should include, are the expectations feasible, necessary, and does it make business or financial sense?
Risk Assessment – Scaling the Owner’s and the Security Provider’s Expectations
Factorization is essential in separating idealistic thoughts and opinions from realities and facts. Security practitioners, event planners, and owners often frame their actions through thinking of worst-case-scenarios. By thinking of every possible event as being the worst-case situation, you are restricting the activities of your event and likely the benefits of the event. Unlike this scenario we take an analytical approach, having said this and to use a gambling term; we like to “hedge our bets” with contingency planning.
How do we do this?
First, we want to discover each asset and the value placed on each asset. We want to know the undesired outcomes from damage or loss to the asset. We want to know what significance or impact the damage or loss of an asset will have.
Second, we want to understand what of these assets are vulnerable, what is being done currently to protect the asset and what can be done to prevent exploitation of the vulnerability.
Third, we need to know what the threat categories are, who are the enemies and what is the intent of these adversaries.
To determine the Risk to an asset we want to estimate the degree of impact as it concerns each valued asset, how likely a threat will be realized, and what the likelihood the threat will be successful, and prioritize the risk based on asset significance.
Finally, we determine all of the potential countermeasures, their benefits, and cost based on the impact of the loss or damage of an asset, prioritizing the options for the recommendations and considerations for the event owner and planners. The determination of these recommendations through proper assessment is inclusive, by default, the size of attendance and geographical space.
Logistics and Resources
When considering security for an event of any size, you must consider what resources are available and what logistical challenges will be faced. Choosing to use complete or partial local resources to save logistical cost can be determined through the risk assessment.
Some of the resources to consider include, security management, and coordinators, security personnel, intelligence & investigative personnel, security operation center(s), transportation, emergency (law enforcement & medical) personnel, scanning equipment, communication systems, and support personnel.
When considering a firm to manage your security and safety needs, we recommend verification of its capabilities. Too often we witness firms making statements of capabilities to a potential client to only find them on a social network attempting to gather unvetted resources needed to meet their obligations. A seasoned security organization will have the ability to support remotely, deployable resources and have already vetted resources on-the-ground to secure your event.
A consideration often found with event owners and planners is the use of unmanaged local resources such as law enforcement, venue security, and medical personnel. All too often we see these, local unmanaged resources compared to managed resources, do not provide the level of service needed and proof to be costly when looking at your R.O.R. (return-on-investment). The cause of this is a lack of business understanding as well as other factors such as the focus of their core missions.
Holistic Approach to Securing an Event
I recommend a holistic approach to secure your event. As we have discussed, the scale of each part of the security and safety plan will be determined by the degree of risk calculated.
When considering the level of security for an event, you should look upon this no different than your prime location your business. The event is an extension of your business facilities. Allow me to share an acute look at the “parts” for consideration:
- Geographical Mapping of Events and Location
- Communications and Announcements to Participants
- Emergency Plans
- Crisis Response Plan
- Operational Plan
- Safety Plan
- Venue and Geographical Evacuations Plans
- Crisis Communication
- Event Changes
- Participant Communication to Safety & Security
- Personal Protection
- Safe Havens
Protection of Sensitive Communications (OPSEC)
- Timing of Announcements
- Venue Locations
- Attending VIP’s and Executives
- Investigations and Protective Intelligence
- Crowd Control Personnel
- Security Operations Center Support Personnel
- Surveillance Detection
- Counter Surveillance
- Active Surveillance
- Access Control Personnel
It is vital to complete the risk analysis before determining the budget for an event. When approaching a security provider, you may have been asked in the opening dialogue, “what is your budget for securing the event?” The asking of this information causes you to start on the wrong foot in your understanding and communication with the potential provider. You will also create a false narrative in establishing a proper budget plan.
I have found that if you follow this chronological approach, you will have a better understanding and results in effectively making your event safe and secure for everyone.
- Establish what your ideal event will be. Include attendance estimates, locations, the number of venues expected guests and the activities. Do not leave anything out and be upfront with all of the shareholders that will need this information.
- Provide information to a trusted security vendor so an estimated budget may be established through the initial protective risk assessment.
- Once you provide an estimated budget consider if changes will be required. Remember your core mission for having the event and do not obscure your goals by focusing on unnecessary desires.
- After you have the final information for your event, it is important that you have your vendor update the risk and cost analysis to reflect any changes. Knowing your cost is particularly important if this is a paid event where you anticipate recouping security cost through registration or participation fees.
It is Not Complicated
As we have reviewed some of the minutia’ involved with establishing your approach to protecting your event you may be thinking, this is just too much! When looking at what I have offered in a point by point manner, I can understand your concern. However, to the contrary, if you engage a vetted security provider for your event, the approach should be seamless without great solicitude or labor on your part.
Finally, once you have selected a competent security vendor that has proven they can manage your event security programs, stick with them. As I have said, a qualified vendor should have the resources and abilities to maintain your event security wherever you need. Cost concerns based on where the vendor is managing the security program should not exist if done correctly.
Bill Peeler, is the Founder and President of Peeler Group International, a provider of protection and investigative services established in 1995.