Tips for ensuring your event attendees’ safety and security
Whatever you’re into, whether that be music, literature or rolling around in the mud, these days you’re sure to find an event or festival to match.
Along with the more established events, more and more people have started organising their own, some of which have become hugely popular in a relatively short amount of time. SXSW, for example, went from 700 people watching a few local bands to the biggest music, film and tech festival in the world. It also launched the careers of John Mayer, the Polyphonic Spree and, more regrettably, James Blunt.
If you’re looking to organise an event, it’s really important that the people attending your event can enjoy it in safety. Recent tragedies have lead to people becoming more watchful and wary at events than usual. So it’s your job to do everything you can to put your paying public’s minds at ease.
In this article we’ve listed a few vital safety considerations to make while you plan your event.
Choose the right venue
Planning your event security needs to be at the forefront of your mind right from the get go. And selecting the right venue is a big part of that.
Create a profile of your event and include all the activities that will take place, how many people you expect to be there and their demographic. The audience at a children’s book reading, for example, will have very different needs to a beer festival. This will give you a better idea of the kind of venue you should be looking for. Once you think you’ve found a suitable one, make sure to visit the event venue and keep in mind the following:
For health and security reasons, it is vitally important that your venue can accommodate the number of visitors. Overcrowding is both incredibly dangerous and very illegal. But you also need to think about whether or not people will be seated, standing or both? Will people be moving around the venue? If so, are there any potential bottlenecks? Are there any areas that you DON’T want people to be able to access? Ensuring people have enough room to move and are comfortable will go a long way to keeping them content and comfortable, while removing any unnecessary tension.
Your event won’t be much of a success if people can’t get there, so think carefully about where you place it. A more niche, local event will need to be easily accessible by people in the local area. An event for drummers will probably need to be a bit further away from civilisation. An event within a city is easy for people to get to but is more likely to attract uninvited guests which can lead to overcrowding and the potential for confrontations. If it’s taking place on public property there will be different permissions involved than if it were taking place on private property, so be aware of the kind of licenses and insurance you might need. In the immortal words of Kirstie Allsopp and Phil Spencer: location, location, location.
So that everyone can get into the event, you’ll need to make sure that pedestrians and vehicles are able to access and exit the venue easily. You’ll also need to consider whether or not disabled people, people in wheelchairs and pushchairs need to be accomodated. Hugely important is to check that there are enough emergency exits and whether or not they’re easy to find.
Managing a crowd can be really difficult, especially at large scale events with lots of visitors spread over a wide area. Wherever possible you should look to employ the services of trained security guards. Larger venues will have their own teams or have a contract with a security firm. Using the existing security team means they have a better knowledge of the venue and its security facilities.
Communication between security personnel is key for maintaining crowd control. Getting some professional two-way radios is your best bet for maintaining communication and they’re the favoured solution for many security firms. They provide full control over the system, while coverage and capacity can be tailored to exactly match the size and location of the event. The first thing you’ll want to determine is the area you’ll need the radios to cover. From there you can determine what kind of radio system you will need, be it simple, conventional with repeaters or trunking. If you’re not sure about this then a two-way radio supplier will be able to offer you some advice.
Utilising digital check-ins will help to eliminate the process of manual check-ins. This removes the need for large groups to gather with nothing to do but wait. It also helps to create a reliable database of the event’s attendees, allowing event organisers to easily identify any unauthorised members.
You should also set specific guidelines for bringing in bags and other items as part of the check in. Identify beforehand what is and what isn’t allowed to come into the venue and make this information clear to the security team and the visitors. This will help you to minimise the risk of people bringing in items that could cause harm to themselves or others.
Have an emergency plan
Having a risk-based emergency plan agreed upon and put in place well in advance of the event will help make everyone safer should the worst happen. The level of emergency planning put in place should be proportionate to the event. So ambulances on standby probably won’t be required for a cheese tasting festival, but they would if you’re planning a strong man event.
Some standard emergency risks to consider are injury, fire, bomb threats and natural hazards, though there may be others due to the locality or type of event. Some emergencies tend towards certain activities more than others, so you should consider your risks in light of your event and plan accordingly. Ensure you have considered all potential risks and create appropriate responses for each.
Many festivals are now having to deal with new security threats in the form of cyber security. To ensure your event doesn’t fall victim to cyber security attacks, consider the following as part of your security plan.
Keep an eye on social media
Monitor all your social media accounts and the audience that engages with your posts. Social media accounts being hacked is a common occurance and can be very disruptive to an event organiser. Once hacked, the hacker can write anything they want, and it will look like it’s coming from the event organisers themselves.
You should also keep an eye on what people are saying about the event. Many criminals will make plans to infiltrate or disrupt events over social media channels like Twitter and Facebook. So in the build up to the event. do regular searches for its name in case people are planning anything untoward.
Nowadays, event attendees will expect to be able to register and buy tickets online. As an event organiser, online payments will also make your life easier as you’ll have a database of who’s interested, who’s coming and who’s paid. Not having this option may even mean missing out some people’s custom as they won’t want to give out their details over the phone. Having a secure payment portal, therefore, is vital.
If you’re not particularly tech savvy, use a trusted payment platform like Paypal. This will not only provide you with a reliable platform, but it will also instill trust in your customers who will recognise a quality brand.
If you do decide to build your own payment gateway, you must ensure it is encrypted properly. Nothing destroys the public’s faith in a company like losing their personal data.
When your event is underway, this is when all your previous planning and preparation will pay off. To ensure your event continues running smoothly. your security team need to be in constant communication to ensure there are no potential risks developing. They should be reporting on how the planning you’ve prepared is being delivered and handling any possible problems according to the plan.
These are just some points to take note of, as every event has their own set of unique hazards and security risks. Although you can’t plan for every possible mishap, it is important to be meticulous in planning your event so that you can mitigate any threat to the safety of your customers.
Once the event has finished, hopefully without any major security incidents, it’s important to review and reflect on your event and determine whether or not there are any improvements you can make for next time. Talk to your team about any near-misses – incidents that didn’t cause any problems this time but have the potential to next time. Look into these events and determine what you can do next time to avoid them altogether.