Event Security: Planning for the Unexpected


The events industry is changing – and not every change is for the better. After a series of high-profile attacks at public events in recent history, the list of potential risks that come with events and large gatherings is growing – and it isn’t because of COVID-19.

Security threats have a constant presence in today’s event climate, and the people who host events are responsible for keeping their guests and performers safe and secure.

After Salman Rushdie was recently stabbed on stage in full view of the audience at a speaking seminar at the Chautauqua Institution, we are reminded of other high-profile attacks during recent events. For example, New York gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin was attacked while on stage at a campaign event, Dave Chappelle was attacked while performing at the Hollywood Bowl, and Will Smith publicly slapped Chris Rock during the nationally televised Oscars.

These events, and their frequency, highlight the importance of ramping up event security. In this article, we will talk about potential risks and what you can do to mitigate them during your event.

The Importance of Event Security

When you host a large event, you’re assuming the responsibility of safety and security for everyone involved. As an event host, one of the most important jobs that go on behind the scenes is your ability to foresee and come up with solutions to potential threats. Failing to adequately prepare for threats can have a range of negative consequences from impacting your brand’s reputation to potential lawsuits.

A number of event planners have been blamed throughout the years when countless events have had unfortunate outcomes similar to the recent events mentioned above. The fact of the matter is securing a venue is a vital part of hosting an event, and that means it needs to be at the forefront of your mind.

Let’s discuss what you can do to recognize security threats and mitigate these risks.

Recognizing Security Threats

People are unpredictable; because of this, the more people that attend an event, the more likely it is that something will go wrong. Recognizing security threats and executing alternative measures in proportion to the size of your event is critical to ensuring the safety of all attendees.

Reasonable foreseeability is used frequently in the events industry and addresses the likelihood of certain risks. If a risk is likely, or even possible, the event planner should provide an actionable plan with their security team to prevent the risk from occurring – and for dealing with active risks. Although not every risk can be mitigated, planning ahead can drastically change the outcome.

While common risks can vary depending on the size and nature of your event, some risks should be actively considered and planned for regardless of the type or size of your event. Some common risks include active shooter situations, fires, anticipated natural disasters, contagions (COVID-19), theft, and drunk driving.

During the recent Rushdie attack, a lawyer who attended the event had this to say: “There was no security stopping us from getting to the stage. There was zero security visible around the stage at the time of the attack. The lack of security for a guest who is the subject of a fatwa was shocking. Attendees couldn’t bring in food or drink, but that was all. Maybe screening for weapons with a wand or walk-through metal detector would have been more helpful. This never should have happened in my opinion.” In light of the attacks, the Chautauqua Institution’s website now prominently states “Grounds access now requires a photo ID.” Hopefully, we’ll hear about ramped-up security at their next event.

Mitigating Risks

While some event planners are shying away from high-visibility speakers due to the increased security costs, that isn’t a sustainable plan.

When the right security plan is in place, event safety, and security – along with risk mitigation – becomes a fairly simple practice. This is why it’s so important to account for a security strategy in your planning process. Some of the things you should take into account are:

Know your venue. You should be aware of every entry point and have security personnel at these locations. If the venue is outdoors, establish boundaries where the event perimeter starts and ends (temporary fencing and barricades are helpful).

Gauge attendee risk. Does your type of event usually produce attendees with questionable backgrounds? While you can’t do a background check for every ticket holder, identifying potential risks is still important. For example, if a guest speaker represents a controversial company or opinion, that may increase the risk of protests or attacks. It’s important to be particularly cautious of guests who purchase tickets in bulk – this could be an event protestor buying tickets for fellow disruptors.

Control the crowd. The larger the crowd, the more likely it is for an incident to occur. Not only does staff need to be comfortable with managing large groups and exerting authority, but you also need a proportionate staff on hand in regards to the number of people in attendance. Some quick tips regarding crowd management could be:

  • Ask guests to move away if they’re blocking an exit.
  • Monitor the registration line to keep people from cutting the line (and starting an incident).
  • Make sure you have staff-only areas taped off and secured so regular guests can’t enter these locations.
  • Don’t exceed capacity. Besides fines from the administrator, going over capacity can cause a number of problems with event security.

Assess the potential for large-scale attacks. Unfortunately, this is something that we have to mention in this day and age: Big crowds are an easy target, so armed security personnel is always recommended for larger events. Other steps to avoid these attacks could be:

  • Make sure every guest has his or her bags checked. A professional security team that is trained to search for weapons or items that can be improvised as weapons should be on your staff.
  • Include a list of contraband items and publicize it ahead of your event and around the entrances.
  • Provide body scanners that can detect these types of contraband.

Look out for suspicious behavior. This should take place not only inside your venue but also in the immediate vicinity of the venue’s exterior. Examples of suspicious behavior may include:

  • Constantly looking at staff
  • Lack of engagement or obvious feigned interest in the event activities
  • Surveilling the layout of the venue

Keep communication tight. Every staff member should have a portable two-way radio (Walkie Talkie). If you’ve hired professional security detail, they should be able to communicate with your staff at any time. This is especially important to make a note of as company staff and third-party security details tend to have a disconnect when it comes to communication, mostly due to the fact that they are unfamiliar with each other. Your staff should be trained to report any suspicious activity to the security team and refrain from any direct confrontations. Providing all of your staff with a diagram of your event venue is a great way to keep everyone in the loop.

Be prepared to respond at a moment’s notice. There is always a risk of something going wrong – make sure your team is prepared for the unexpected. An organized and safe event ensures that everyone leaves safe and happy.

Event Security Rental Equipment – and more

While it is well known that we provide a wide range of products for events of all shapes and sizes from audio packages, kiosk rentals, charging stations, displays, vending machines, photo booths, digital signage, computers, tablets, and VR equipment – it’s also important to make sure your security team is as well-equipped as your entertainment team.

We also provide two-way radios and push-to-talk radios for keeping communication going with your security team and staff during events. On top of that, you can also stay connected with iPhone rentals for anyone that requires additional means of communication.

Need WiFi too? No problem. Did you know you can rent an AirCard or wireless hotspot?

Get a free quote for your event technology rental needs today.

Tech Travel Agent Randy MooreWhen you rent from us, you not only get the best equipment but also top-of-the-line support from qualified tech travel agents with years of experience in the technology rental and event production field. Our agents coordinate all the logistics of delivery and installation and can have techs on call to troubleshoot and fix any problems that may arise with your rental technology. Our account manager Randy Moore specializes in exhibitor rentals like displays, kiosks, event engagement rentals, laptops, tablets, smartphones, internet hotspots, accessory rentals, and much more. Randy will gladly handle any questions you may have in regards to rentals to make your event exhibition easier. Contact Randy today at 1-800-736-8772 ext. 225 or fill out a fast, easy online quote form today.

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