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Security security security

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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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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