I first started working security at concerts 46 years ago, when I cut my event teeth in the Empire Theatre, Edinburgh. Prior to that I was a member of the audience.
Crucially, it was the experience of being a ticket buyer that gave me a unique and very early perspective – I was only 16 years old – on how audiences should be managed, and a sense that something had to change and improve.
Fast-forward to the present day and it would be a failure if there was not an acknowledgement that many individuals, some who are no longer with us, have given their entire careers and sacrificed much of their personal life to create a safer and more secure environment in which people can go out and enjoy themselves, and also to work and perform at events.
Many of those same individuals understood not only the greater good of sharing, collaborating and exploring new methods, but also of obtaining input from the eventgoing public, which was about seeing how we do our job – not introspectively, but from the view of that 16-year-old live music fan.
The past strides taken towards improving standards of planning, tactical awareness, operational delivery and customer expectations were, and still are, very much an experiential process, where good and bad lessons learned are then applied so that future incident and disaster can be avoided. I think this is best characterised by paraphrasing the words of Spanish philosopher, George Santayana: “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
There can be no secrets where public safety is concerned
The importance of analysing and prioritising the range of risks and threats underlines what Lord Kerslake said in his contribution last year in the eponymous Manchester Arena bombing report: that “we cannot afford to be complacent,” which is no less equal to Lord Justice Taylor’s comment in his Hillsborough Disaster report that “complacency is the enemy of safety.”
From what I saw at the Event Safety and Security Summit (E3S) in October, there is no sense of complacency among event security professionals today.
If there is any looking back, it is about preparing for the future. It is also about analysing current methods and trends with a critical eye, but also seeking out new theories and keeping pace with what technology has to offer while still aiming to share best practice, and in general to collaborate.
The latter, of course, can bring into play the debate about competition and commercial interest. However, there can be no secrets where public safety is concerned. Any agile business or service provider knows that quality in delivery of a ‘safe and secure event,’ from which there are no injuries or fatalities, and the prevailing public consciousness is about a good time experienced and not about security presence, is where the greatest amount of positive impact will be made on both the consumer and client’s ‘feelings’ about their own safety.
So what does the future look like? Technology is most certainly going to be a large part of how events are managed, where safety, security and customer service are assured and integrated.
‘Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it’
The threat of internal terrorists perhaps calls into question the need for more robust employee screening, vetting and supervising to minimise the opportunity for someone to become hostile within the organisation or event.
Of course, threats are not just focused around people, but increasingly our events are reliant on multiple systems that are vulnerable to cyber attack. The world is moving at pace towards the Internet of things, the advent of artificial intelligence and machine learning. Biometrics, facial matching and recognition, and utilising open-source intelligence are of great benefit, but create in themselves an asset-protection need. Therefore, it is essential to have a clear plan that addresses what security controls are required for each critical system, and contingencies.
Events are really about a gathering of people, usually for the purposes of seeking enjoyment and entertainment, and the physical and psychological factors that influence their actions. The industry has advanced quite considerably in the last few years and quite rightly is embracing technology, seeking out new ways to train, educate, plan, manage and communicate.
Yet we must never forget that we are dealing with people and all of the human factors arising from excitement, anticipation, fear, expectation and cultural influences that are ever present and always changing.
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