A new wave of threats has attacked and will continue to threaten our event venues. Long gone are the days when event security was a nuisance addendum for meeting planners who had little-to-no security background nor experience. Event safety is now at the forefront of every planner's agenda.
Over the past five years we have witnessed a significant change in the event security landscape. Venue threats have escalated from petty crimes and unruly crowds to potentially violent environments. The threats we are seeing might come in the form of random gun-and-knife violence, vehicular killings, terrorist and militant group attacks, or radicalized individuals stemming from geopolitical situations.
To make matters more complex, as security incidents have demonstrated, this increasing violence and unrest is not limited to one place, group or country. It is a nondiscriminatory threat.
Understanding New Threats
Consider the way securing events has changed in recent years. There was the Nice, France, vehicular attack at a Bastille Day celebration in 2016, resulting in the deaths of 86 people and injuries of hundreds of others, which significantly changed the perspective security professionals had on defining the security perimeters of a venue. In Paris, gunmen attacked a crowd during an Eagles of Death Metal concert in 2015, leaving 90 people dead. At the 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting, a solo gunman took the lives of 49 people. The 2017 attacks at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester claimed 22 lives; and then there was the 2017 Las Vegas concert shooting, which killed 59 people and injured hundreds more. All have been horrific incidents that we as an industry have been able to learn from.
Navigating the Liability Landscape
In addition to major increases in the number of event attacks, there has also been an evolution in the liability landscape. The focus of lawsuits filed following an attack usually target venue owners, operators and security providers. It is important for these stakeholders to acknowledge that they could face liability in the event of a security threat and explore risk-management options.
There are a variety of ways to manage and reduce event risk; however, one fundamental step to take happens during the security pre‐planning stage. Conducting a thorough threat and risk assessment is critical. While there's not a one‐size-fits-all assessment for every type of event, following are eight key components that apply to venue security.
1. Start during site selection and assessment. The conversation around security should begin during the site-selection process, which ideally should take place at least one year in advance of the scheduled meeting. During initial site visits, it's important to identify key security points of contact at each venue (whether that be the hotel, arena, resort or convention center), and investigate public address systems, evacuation plans and drills, available shelters, perimeter access controls and parking security. Determine whether metal detectors will be required at each venue. Identify nearby hospitals and their trauma level capabilities for medical emergencies, as well as civil disturbances plans and first aid accessibility.
2. Gather intelligence from open sources. The best way to mitigate risk is to plan ahead for any outside forces that might potentially hinder your event. These should include (but are not limited to) the destination's known criminal activity or history, geopolitical climate and even average weather conditions.
3. Establish a security budget. Compare your defined safety and security budget to what was used in the previous year and identify where you might need to add more resources or adjust. You'll be able to make clear and informed decisions based on your site selection and what type of event you are planning.
4. Identify local security liaisons. Research and meet with local first responders and third-party points of contact (independent contractors, venue security, off-site security, EMT services, off-duty police, etc.) to better understand their processes when handling a crisis. Develop a contract with a detailed scope of work that defines what their responsibilities will be during your event, and how they might be able to consult on additional security measures with which you might not be familiar. Establish an internal and external crisis communication plan to effectively communicate during an incident or crisis.
5. Establish executive protection. Depending on the type of event or security risk of the location, a separate executive security plan might need to be put in place. This plan should include coordinating security routes with the assigned points of contact for all attending executives and board members. It should also define whether there is a need for technical surveillance counter measures -- electronic sweeps to identify covert recording, listening or video equipment, for example.
6. Create a crisis communication plan. Design a reporting process that details who is authorized and/or responsible for calling the command post in the case of an incident, and who will relay emergency information to your company's executives and staff. Have a single channel for attendees for two-way check-in and communication. All incidents related to safety, injury or disturbances must be documented.
7. Establish a command post. The command post is one of the most important aspects of the meeting's security plan, as it will serve as the headquarters of where your crisis communications plan is implemented. Identify who will be leading the command post and who should be manning the post at all times. The command post should possess lists of all event employees and contractors, along with each person's email and phone number to get a hold of them if need be. Command post liaisons should be trained and ready to set up a mass notification in the case of an emergency.
8. Brief the event team. Before the meeting commences, a security, evacuation and emergency-response briefing should take place so that all organizers can understand what will happen in the case of an emergency. Evacuation routes and maps of designated safe zones outside of the venue should be shared at this time.
Jana Monroe is the vice president of global corporate security and enterprise risk management for Herbalife Nutrition.