Protecting crowded spaces?
As a Crowd Safety Consultant I am constantly reviewing and assessing the current threats, challenges, and vulnerabilities that continue for events and clients with duty of care and responsibilities for event safety and security.
When picking up discussions about the safeguarding of public crowded spaces, across a range of locations be they stadiums, arenas and public areas where large crowds gather, I remind myself of the following:
(Acknowledgement to James DeMeo for sharing the importance of this)
- Have I got a sustainable process for event staff training?
- Does this go beyond initial training and embraces continual professional development (CPD) approach?
- Are all levels of staffing including middle and senior management suitably experienced, trained and can account for their CPD?
- Have thorough risk assessments and site visits been carried out – how often are they being conducted?
- Threat and vulnerability testing, computer simulations, evacuation drills, tabletop exercises. Practice, practice, practice. Know what to do in that moment of crisis by leading others to safety.
- Do your staff know their immediate action drills in an emerging emergency situation (back to point 1)?
- Reviewing your safety planning and testing. How long does it take you to evacuate your stadium, venue, arena? How often are you conducting drills inside your venue?
- Effective/efficient visitor screening measures – Personal search policy, Hand wand and metal arches, bag searches. Is there a clear bag policy in place? If so, have you communicated this to your fan base via social media platforms, i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and the organisation’s website?
- Insider threat mitigation – Robust and affective staff identification and vetting procedures, including all provider services.
- Target hardening, hostile vehicle mitigation, pedestrian zones, road closures, vehicle parking, turnstile management for queues.
- Counter-terrorism – What next?, recent., lone wolf – extremely unpredictable in nature, in and around your venue, you are always a target and always vulnerable to attack. Is your Command and Control room staff fully trained and briefed? Do you keep up to date by news and social media?
- Cross training provider services and frontline security. They will be multi tasking in emergencies. Your staff will thank you for training to be well versed in verbal de-escalation skills for their personal safety. This will help create a harmonious relationship with your customers. It’s all about the fan experience and returns visits. This will ensure profits while safeguarding organisational brand.
- Crisis management/communications – Social media platforms by pushing out the message, fan education-codes of conduct being posted on organisation’s website. A knowledgeable fan is a safe fan.
- Drones, inclement and severe weather conditions, bomb scares, active shooter, workplace violence situations, protests in close proximity to mass transit hubs, choke points/bottlenecks, crowd demographics, dynamics, spacing. All can be game changers for safety.
- Do you debrief adequately and learn from your event and others? What about those “phew we were lucky that time” moments? Best practices, lessons learned, information sharing, public-private partnerships. All parties getting on the same page fosters understanding and enhanced communications.
- Are you complaint to your Safety Certificate?
My plea to you is to consider and importantly put in place if you do not have it already a plan to mitigate your risk. Train staff constantly and repeatedly, measure the effectiveness of the security program by collecting and evaluating data on the performance of all aspects of the plan, including that of security personnel, supervisors, and command elements. Some of the training should include “tabletop” and full- scale exercises with external agencies responsible for incident response and recovery. Your security programmes should include testing of the training and use of debriefs and action reports. These reports can be used to evaluate and improve performance not only after training but after routine minor incidents to establish the habit of review.
In summary, the occurrences, at Westminster Bridge, Manchester Arena and just today at a New York Subway is a stark reminder that the challenges continue to confront us. The integration of technology platforms, responsible social media monitoring, risk mitigation strategies, venue staff training, continuing education, and research will go far with properly safeguarding crowded spaces.
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