Special Event Security : Advice From an Expert
In the 25-plus years I have been in the security industry, the subject of special event security has been the most challenging and also the most rewarding. Each event is always unique, involving different sponsors, locations, topics, products and attendees. This challenge forces one to think outside the box.
Often security is a last minute add-in to a special event plan when it really should be considered from the start. Ask yourself what you would do if “something” happened. Call security? Although site security can often assist in a situation, they, too, can often benefit from the use of a security consulting company. Also, the planner may have knowledge on some aspects of security, but by contracting a security advisor you have access to much more information, trends and ideas.
• Do I have a clear understanding of expected crowds?
Often an events planning team cannot forecast accurate numbers because of uncontrollable factors such as changes in economy, national events, weather and so forth. And social networking such as Twitter and Facebook allow instant sharing of event conditions from those attending, so the word on whether to come or stay away spreads very rapidly. This can be seen in recent civil uprisings in Egypt and other countries, where the ability to instantly communicate to the masses directly affected the outcome of the event. If this happens, security can become an issue.
• Is the event or are the attendees controversial?
Some special event sponsors, such and the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the American Civil Liberties Union are controversial simply because of what they represent and/or the different positions the public has as to their message. This controversy can draw unwanted publicity, protests from the opposition and attendance by those who may be present for reasons other than to simply attend the event.
• Is the event located near mass transit, medical assistance and law enforcement?
Arrival and departure patterns can cause potential security concerns. Understanding how the attendees will come to and depart from the event is essential in predicting challenges. This understanding also helps in planning for emergency egress lanes and routes. Knowing response times from local emergency services will also help one understand what will be expected of on-site security or emergency medical response until help arrives.
How to Hire a Security Advisor
Choose a security advisor based on their experience and knowledge specific to special events, large events, controversial events or international events as applicable. Obtain references. The advisor should be able to discuss all aspects of special event security.
At your initial meeting, be sure your prospective security advisor has a clear understanding of the event; some advisors may specialize in unique situations that could apply to your event that can determine if they are qualified to assist with yours. Again, using the NRA as an example, there may be firearms present. In that case, the security advisor should understand the laws in your jurisdiction specific to carrying, selling, possessing and buying firearms.
Cost will be dictated by several things including the size of the event and expected crowds. A larger, more complex event will require a more experienced, knowledgeable security advisor. Unique attributes of a given event may only be able to be addressed by a very few security advisors and thus may cost more. Length of the project, geographical location and many other factors will impact cost. I strongly urge you to seek several quotes for service. These quotes should always provide an hourly or daily rate, and a not-to-exceed clause or maximum expected cost in total for your project.
Seeking the advice of a security consultant versed in special event security, someone who has actively worked as a security advisor to special events, can help you mitigate risk, both general and specific.
by Randy Bigelow
Randy Biglow is currently the regional/country director with At Risk International, LLC. (www.atriskpi.com) He is frequently called upon to help clients with projects such as Mardi Gras, parades, special events and world tours by internationally recognized entertainers and VIPs. His largest special event work was in directly overseeing all security for employees, dignitaries, athletes and tens of thousands of guests at the Olympic Games of 2004 (Athens, Greece), 2006 (Torino, Italy), 2008 (Beijing, China) and 2010 in Vancouver.