Although planning a safe event has always been part of the event industry, it’s at the forefront of event organizer’s minds now, more than ever. Around the world, tragic incidents at events like the Easter Bombings and natural disasters have shown that we aren’t prepared for every type of security and safety issue in our industry. And with tech playing a larger role in event planning and production, not only do we need to be on top of physical threats, but cybersecurity concerns as well.
A review of the basics
Let’s start at the beginning and take a look at some standard considerations for safety and security for event organizers.
Have a risk management plan in place for each event
It’s time to refresh your practices with regards to risk assessment plans! Remember that a risk assessment plan has three main parts and serves the purpose of making your event as safe as possible for everyone involved and nearby.
Hazard identification: Recognize any hazards associated with your event. To identify those risks, consider the different people involved and their roles in the setup, running and participating in the event. As well as human-related hazards, you should also recognize technological, natural and environmental hazards.
Risk assessment: Use a risk assessment matrix to estimate the potential impact of a hazard to find the level of risk. Once you have done this, you can prioritize the most significant risks.
Risk control: With the help of the event team, develop reasonable solutions, starting with the high-level risks. Those may include the elimination of hazard, substitution, engineering, administrative and use of appropriate safety gear. Above all, you should look for solutions that are logical and practical.
The event should be staffed by qualified security personnel
You should, of course, staff your event with security personnel, but it’s not as simple as that. Firstly, you need to make sure they are qualified and have experience providing security for events. If you host mega-events, please ensure the security company of your choice has proven experience in handling events of that scale. They need to know the strategies, evacuation procedures and communication methods that come from overseeing such a large volume of people. If using security scanning devices at your event, then the staff operating them must be highly-trained. But, something event planners can overlook is that in addition to security team members having the right skills and knowledge – they also need the right attitude.
Security should form a visible presence. This isn’t just to deter any unruly behavior around them, but also to provide reassurance to event goers doing the right thing. Not only will they feel safer, but attendees will turn to them with questions at an event – anything from asking for bathroom locations to following their directions in the case of a security breach or evacuation.
If you’re hosting a larger event, in addition to a security team, you will also need an emergency medical crew. They will be there for first response and for liaising with additional paramedics when they arrive on the scene, if needed.
Reduce crowd density for lower risk
When you’re planning a safe event, you probably think in terms of how many people you can comfortably fit in the venue. But, in terms of security, opting for expanded event parameters, beyond what you actually need can be a good idea. That’s because security issues tend to occur in densely populated and concentrated areas. Not only that, when it comes to the heavy-hitting issues like terrorism, it’s been found that even the fear of terrorist activity “can lead to crowd disasters”. Spreading out the audience, and having additional event security to cover the larger area can reduce some of that risk.
Focus on lighting for event safety and security
Planning a safe event requires lighting that:
Defines the space’s parameters and boundary
Provides adequate overall brightness
Has walkways and facilities that are well-lit so they are safely walkable
Provides well-lit and signed exits
Has emergency lighting on standby
Provides proper visibility for set-up and dismantling of event equipment
Is tested to code and in date
It’s vital to engage AV professionals to arrange adequate lighting for your event. Suitable lighting prevents safety hazards and helps with security monitoring. It also aids faster response by security and medical teams in the event of an incident and facilitates safe evacuations, if it happens.
Ensure event setup is resistant to the elements
Event experts thrive in an unusual environment that requires both careful planning, but also the ability to adapt to changes at the drop of a hat. As we all know, sudden severe weather can disrupt even the best-laid plans. Some regions are more at risk of unexpected weather, like Florida for example. So, it’s important to be mindful of this in both the planning stage and right through the duration of the event.
This is particularly true for outdoor events. High winds and lightning are two of the most common weather conditions to cause safety hazards at events. Temporary structures like outdoor stages as well as the necessary rigging for AV equipment, are usually in the firing line for extreme weather. If not adequately secured, their size and weight become a scary hazard for all in the area. When this goes wrong, the implications are huge – financially, but more importantly, with regards to the safety of event team, contractors and attendees.
It’s vital you use the right vendors when planning a safe event so that you know the equipment, but also the setup is up to scratch. Excellent communication comes into play here too. Don’t leave anything to chance. Ask questions, check and check again. Decide who and how communication will take place if weather concerns do arise on the big day.
We’ll talk about how to ensure you’re using the right vendors for this shortly.
Adopt more sophisticated safety and security measures
The basics of planning a safe event are important. But there are many more steps you can take to ensure your safety and security measures are the best they can be.
Improve coordination with experts
As an event planner, you can better gauge safety measures needed by turning to those in the know. There’s nothing worse than realizing after an incident has occurred that you could have taken further steps to prevent or mitigate the impact. That’s why we want to remind you of who can seek expert advice on, to ensure (as much as practicable) that you’re planning a safe event.
Firstly, consider local law enforcement. Even if you’re hiring security staff specifically for your event, think about whether your event would benefit from a police presence or having them on standby. Determine how you will be communicating with them on the day. Make sure all event staff, including the security team, are aware of this as well so that you can all follow the same procedure. A more cohesive approach will mean faster response to any security concerns.
Secondly, consider hiring an event meteorologist to consult on your event. Playing “amateur meteorologist” might sound appealing to you, but it can be dangerous because the weather can be unpredictable and fast-moving. It’s critical to reach out to the experts to forecast what could potentially be coming for outdoor events, and help you navigate through it. Meteorologists have access to specialized software and precision instruments that allow them to provide timely information to you 24/7. Did you know that these experts will predict the weather not just for the city you’re in, but for the exact GPS location of your event?
Due diligence for the safety of your attendees is the highest priority when organizing an event. But hiring experts is the way to know you’ve done everything you can. This is critical if something does happen, and you end up in court.
Give more focus to purging data
Event planners can be tempted to archive and store all event data collected, thinking it might eventually be useful. However, from a security perspective, it’s important to purge data after each event you organize. You see, additional risks come from hoarding data. The more data you have, the more can be stolen during a hack. And that results in a higher cost to you if a data breach does occur.
You only need to the keep the data that will be useful for forecasting and gives you a competitive advantage. If you’re not sure what that is, it’s worth taking some time to put a plan in place and jump on board the trend for data minimization as a security tool.
Remember, after every event, to review any safety or security issues that arose, or you noticed could have occurred. How did security and your event team respond? Is there something different your team can do next time? Learning and improving is critical for effectively planning a safe event every time.
What’s your top tip for planning a safe event? Share it in the comments!