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E3S showcases the human ‘heart’ of event safety

The annual Event Safety and Security Summit (E3S) took place yesterday (8 October) as experts dedicated to keeping venues, events and festivals safe descended on the Congress Centre in London for a packed schedule of panel discussions, keynote interviews, quick-fire presentations and interactive activities.

“Safety and security are the top priority for AEG and for the industry as a whole,” commented AEG’s senior vice president and chief security officer Matt Bettenhausen, as he took to the stage to deliver the opening address to a packed room of delegates.

Information sharing, technological innovations, training programmes, anti-terrorism strategies and crowd management techniques were all discussed at the conference, but it was the people behind the projects that came out as the heroes of the day.

“In the end, our most important resources are our people,” said Bettenhausen, explaining his mantra of enlisting, entrusting, empowering and encouraging, assuring every person in the chain of command has the knowledge, confidence and skills to act. “This is what allows me to do my job,” stressed Bettenhausen.

People also formed the centre of the closing remarks of this year’s E3S, delivered by Sir Paul McCartney’s director of security Mark Hamilton.

“People are at the heart of everything we do as safety and security professionals,” said Hamilton, noting that his experience as a young concertgoer gave him a “unique perspective on how audiences should be managed”, as well as an innate sense that something should be “changed and improved”.

“In the end, our most important resources are our people”

45 years on, the security veteran stated that the industry looked “better informed than ever” and commended the collaborative spirit and distinct lack of complacency of all those attending.

Bettenhausen commented on the success of wider industry, noting that the business is in rude health and referencing the ever-increasing demand from fans to attend events, as seen by the recent example of Glastonbury Festival’s recent rapid sell-out.

For Bettenhausen, this demand to attend events, especially before line-ups are even announced, is based on trust – trust both in the event organisers and in security teams and their capacity to keep fans safe and secure.

Terrorism, sadly, remains a serious threat for the events industry, albeit a low probability one, and was discussed by the AEG chief, as well as by representatives of Sportpaleis Antwerp, who recently conducted a major simulation of a terrorist attack in their Belgium arena.

This kind of activity paves the way for thorough planning, another key aspect of ensuring safety at live events. “An ounce of prevention equals a pound of cure,” former Californian governor Arnold Schwarzenegger likes to tell Bettenhausen, the AEG security chief mentioned casually.

Other E3S 2019 highlights included engaging discussions on the psychology and management of crowds, the safeguarding of vulnerable people and the threat of cyber incidents.

“We must never forget that we are dealing with people here, and all of the human factors arising from excitement, anticipation, fear, expectation and cultural influences”

The haphazard nature of much security training was a topic that cropped up throughout the day. Andrew Tatrai of Australia’s Aces Group presented his research on how to train crowd managers, explaining how technology can be used to “mimic human intuition” and make crowd management more measurable. Tatrai has now developed a crowd managers decision support tool, using technology to visualise crowd dynamics, predict behaviour, quickly identify risks and mitigate potential issues.

Crowd control has been a focus for Festival Republic in recent years, said the company’s health and safety events organiser Noel Painting, speaking on the ‘Dealing with high risk shows’ panel. “The key thing for events at a major London park is dividing the audience up so we have access to them,” Painting explained, referencing “incidents” at a festival this year, saying changes “certainly” needed to be made, with the introduction of more metalwork to ensure more effective crowd management.

The erratic nature of crowds was explored by Hamilton, as he concluded E3S 2019.

“We must never forget that we are dealing with people here,” concluded Hamilton, “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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