Poor event security can literally lead to catastrophe – people can be hurt or even killed, as they are every time a shooter opens fire on a concert or a domestic terrorist drives a vehicle into a crowd of protestors. Domestic terror attacks are getting more common, and you have a role to play in protecting your event and its attendees from people with bad intentions. In fact, you might say that nothing is more important to an event’s success than keeping it safe.
When planning for event security, you have to know the risks of your venue and what kind of public response you can expect your event to engender. You’ll need to identify who is legitimately attending or working at the event and who might have snuck in. Make security apparent for everyone’s safety, and have an emergency plan to get everyone to safety if something should happen.
Anticipate the Risks
What specific risks does your event face? If you’re hosting a controversial speaker or performer, you might attract individuals hoping to target that person. Domestic terrorists could intend to target the attendees of your event, too, especially if they draw controversy as a group. The context of the event, or its theme, could attract negative attention.
Consider security vulnerabilities at the venue, like back doors or windows that could be easily opened and accessible from the ground. Consider whether you expect media, protestors, or counter-protestors at your event. Don’t forget to consider non-human threats, like earthquakes, flooding, wild animals, or nearby busy highways.
The staff working at your venue can present another area of vulnerability. Have you run background and credit checks on your staff? Make sure that you can trust your staff and cultivate strong relationships with vendors who also have trustworthy staff (you can background check your own staff, but you can’t background check your vendors’ staff). Give staff a t-shirt, stamp, or wristband so you can quickly identify who is legitimate and who might be posing as event staff to gain access to the event.
You’ll need to consider the threats to your attendees’ identity and devices while they are in your event. Keep attendees’ personal information secure. Consider the threat attendees’ devices might pose to performers and whether you need to impose a phone ban on the event.
Know Your Attendees
If at all possible, you should know who is attending your event. Collect identifying information from your attendees during the registration process and use it to affirm their identities when they come to sign in. Give your event attendees custom event wristbands so you can identify at a glance who does and doesn’t belong in the event. If you’re not taking identifying information from your attendees, you’ll definitely need to search their belongings before you let them in.
Let Everyone See You Taking Security Seriously
It’s important that everyone see you taking security seriously. It’ll put people’s minds at ease knowing that security is a priority for the event planners. Set up security checkpoints to search for weapons and contraband and keep any troublemakers away from crowded areas. You should make sure that security checkpoints are easily identifiable as such – fewer people will attempt to bring in contraband this way. Use cameras to deter bad behavior and capture evidence if anything does occur. Make sure the event is well-staffed with security personnel so that attendees know where to go for help if they need any.
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Have an Emergency Plan
If something does happen, you’re going to want to be able to get everyone to safety as soon as you can. Make sure you have an emergency plan that takes into consideration different likely scenarios. You need to know how to evacuate the area quickly in case of a fire, but also what to do in the case of an active shooter. You’re going to need to know different wants to exit the venue, where potential safe areas are, where staff should meet, how staff will communicate, and how they’ll help get the guests and speakers or performers to safety. You should put up signage and notices so that guests will know what to do in case of an emergency.
You just can’t pull off a successful event without taking event security seriously. You need to make sure everyone inside the event is accounted for and that no one is bringing in weapons. You need to be ready to take charge in the event of an emergency. With the right security strategy, everyone can enjoy your event.