Event Safety & Security – 3 takeaways from the NCS4 Conference

Posted on August 29, 2014

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As en event production professional for over 11 years I find it interesting to see how different organizations handle the safety and security of their events. From the staff to participants to the general public, there are quite an array of issues that can come up, and even more possible resolutions. Managing these situations takes skill and finesse, and of course, planning. Attending the annual National Spectator Sports Safety & Security Conference in July brought a revitalized interest in the measures taken to create a safe and secure event. The practices and resources available are vast and robust, and it’s on each of us to take on the best practices fitting to our needs. Below are a few key takeaways, along with some suggested resources, for you to advance the safety and security measures within your organization.

Security costs of events & venues is no longer strictly an outlay
For years the security measures taken by venues and event managers have been viewed as a costly endeavor, not actually bringing any money back in to the organization. That has changed. The security team now has a seat at the same table as the CEO and other department heads. The value of a safe and secure event can be seen in many ways. When participants aren’t worried about safety concerns outside of their realm, they can be more fully immersed in your message and the experience. When the general public isn’t worried that your event will draw unruly or outlandish behaviors from others, they’ll welcome you back and might event join in on the experience. And let’s not underestimate the value of word-of-mouth. These people may then tell a friend or family member about how great the experience was, expanding your reach and building upon security successes and worry-free experiences. Though the security costs associated with an event or venue are quite clear, the value often lies underneath the surface.

Level of attention for non-ticketed outdoor events is increased
With the rise in participation levels of various outdoor, open air, non-ticketed events comes greater responsibility for event organizers to ensure the safety of everyone including participants, spectators, and community members living or working in the area. In the past there was rarely such a thing as security at the bag check, or set limits on access to the finish line. This is not the case any longer. With so many people taking part in events, we must continue to focus on the safety of everyone and continue to advance our practices accordingly. Regardless of the unforeseen happenings – extreme weather, a stray backpack, major accident in the event space – we must be prepared to handle it as it happens, and we must also be able to learn from the experience to create better practices in the future.  Some things are simply one off occurrences, but we must consider the possibility of it happening again and learn from how the situation was handled and ultimately resolved the first time. If we’re not prepared accordingly, the aftermath of whatever the situation may have been can be disastrous. Whether it’s from the media scrutiny or the many legal and insurance related aspects, it’s our duty to be prepared. 

Resources are available
There are a number of organizations utilizing standards and best practices gathered from years of experience. Much of this stems from the field of emergency management, be it wildfires out West or hurricanes in the South. Those responsible for dealing with emergencies have developed a robust library of material from which to learn, and the value of that information is now being translated to the event space. Although an event doesn’t typically take place over many thousands of acres like a wildfire does, the emergency situations that arise require similar handling to resolve as quickly and thoroughly as possible. Within the National Incident Management System (NIMS) resides a body of knowledge known as the Incident Command System (ICS), a thorough, scalable plan for handling any type of emergency. Utilizing these best practices will ensure proper coordination, including resolution and follow up, of a wide array of unforeseen situations. Nearly all jurisdictions across the country are trained in these practices to some extent, and when your team is trained appropriately you’re able to click together and work through whatever has come up.

If you were at the conference as well, were there any takeaways you’d share? Hit the comments below to share them or any other tips you have of regarding event safety and security practices every event planning professional should know!

As 2014 marches on and the event season evolves from summer in to fall and beyond, I hope your events are going well and staying safe!

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