Event security entails far more than just dotting the venue with security personnel. The process is quite complex and requires extensive coordination and communication. By employing the right security practices, you’ll ensure the safety of your guests and staff, plus you’ll prevent damage to the venue and related property.
Below, we’ll dive into tips and recommended practices for managing crowd control and keeping the logistics spot on.
The Logistics of Event Security Management
Let’s begin with the logistics aspect. Much of this needs to be arranged and planned beforehand in the brainstorming room. Here’s a step-by-step of what needs to be covered:
Step 1: Know Your Requirements
Each venue requires a specific on-site strategy. An indoor venue will obviously require a different approach than an outdoor one. With the latter, you may need additional equipment, such as canopies, extension cords, etc. You should also verse yourself in any guidelines regarding what you are and aren’t permitted to do at the venue.
You should know, for example, if you’re permitted to:
- Use third-party catering (some venues require you to use the facility’s in-house catering).
- Use certain rooms and offices in the facility.
- Keep company equipment inside the facility overnight (if using the venue for more than one day).
Step 2: Choose the Resources
Look into whether the venue supplies some of the items you’ll need, such as seats and AV equipment. You should also know whether the venue provides personnel, such as custodians and administrators. Know what you need, where you’re going to get them from, and have backup sources ready.
In other words, if the rental store doesn’t have any available projector units, do you have another source where you can acquire one last-minute?
Step 3: Execute
Once steps two and three are established, execute anything that can be done before the day of the event. If some of the steps can’t be executed until the day of the event, have a step-by-step event security planning checklist for its execution during the on-site setup.
We cannot stress enough the importance of security at events. An injury to a guest or damage to property can have serious legal, financial, and PR repercussions.
That’s why a huge part of your pre-event duties also include security planning. Depending on the scale of the event, you may or may not require professional security detail.
Either way, you’ll still need an organized plan for checking attendees in and managing crowd control. So consider these best practices for maintaining tight security controls:
Step 1: Know the Venue Inside and Out
Identify all venue entry points. You should also know how porous the venue is. By “porous,” this implies any means beyond the actual entry points where people may be able to enter. This may include a back door reserved for staff, or a window that can be opened from the outside.
Once you identify all points of entry, be sure all personnel and especially the security team is made aware. Creating a diagram you can share is an easy and effective way to give the team a visual understanding.
If the venue is outdoors, establish boundaries where the event perimeter begins and ends. You might also consider the use of temporary fencing and barricades.
Step 2: Gauge Attendee Risk
Are there any attendees or guests that may pose a risk? Obviously, you can’t perform a background check on every ticket buyer. However, you should identify potential risks.
If a guest speaker, for example, represents a company with a controversial history, that may increase the risk of protests or attendees who may attend just to cause a confrontation. Be suspicious of guests that purchase event tickets by the bulk. This may be an event protestor buying tickets for their fellow disruptors.
Step 3: Control the Crowd
The larger the crowd, the more likely it is that something can go wrong. Staff needs to be versed in managing large numbers of people and exerting authority when need be. The security team may need to perform the following with respects to crowd management:
- Ask guests to move away if they’re blocking the exit.
- Monitor the registration line to keep it organized and prevent people from cutting. (Using cones, yellow tape, or stanchions is a great help here.)
- Ensure guests don’t stray into staff-only areas or areas reserved for VIP.
It’s also important that you ensure that the crowd in the venue never grows beyond the capacity limit. Remember to count all staff and security personnel when keeping track of total numbers. Going over capacity can result in fines from the venue administrator.
Step 4: Assess the Potential for Large-Scale Attacks
It’s unfortunate we have to mention this at all, but this is the reality we now live in. Big crowds are an easy and soft target, so armed security personnel are generally recommended for larger events.
All guests should also have their bags checked. A professional security team is trained to look for weapons or items that can be improvised as weapons.
Publicize ahead of your event that all personal bags will be inspected to ensure guest safety. You should also include a list of contraband items that will not be allowed in the venue. This includes all weapons and certain chemical materials.
Aside from bag checks and body scanners, personnel should also be on the lookout for suspicious behavior. Examples of abnormal behavior that should alert staff includes:
- Constantly staring at staff
- Lack of engagement or feigned interest in event activities
- Surveilling the venue layout
Monitoring for suspicious activity should also take place in the immediate vicinity of the venue exterior. Since bags won’t be checked until entry, perpetrators may find opportunities right outside the venue where attendees gather to register.
Step 5: Keep Communication Tight
Your communication with your event staff should be spot-on. Be sure each staff member has a walkie-talkie, so personnel not within hearing distance can stay in contact without leaving their area of duty. If you hire a professional security detail, be sure they communicate back and forth with your own staff. Company staff and third-party security details tend to not communicate. The former should report all suspicious activity to the security team and refrain from direct confrontations.
Pro tip: Diagramming the event beforehand can be a great way to share a visual map of the security setup with your staff.
Will you use these event security tips to keep everyone safe?
Events generate a lot of ROI for planners, companies, and venues. However, with any live public gathering, there is always the risk of something going seriously wrong.
You and your team have to be prepared to respond at a moment’s notice. An organized and safe event ensures everyone leaves happy.
Download our quick checklist of 20 event security tips and tactics to help you prepare like a pro!
Dan McCarthy is an Event Manager at Venueseeker, an event management company based in the UK. Dan has 6 years of event project management under his belt. He has worked on many successful events, and currently, he shares his knowledge by writing on the company blog. Follow him on Twitter @DanCarthy2.