It’s easy to become complacent about security - you get irritated when asked to produce a laminate yet again, or maybe you don’t see why you have to wait in line to get your bag screened. As planners, it’s a crucial role you have to get attendees and the public at large to recognize that security is performing a vital service to protect them.
Event Safety Alliance (ESA) Vice President Steven Adelman, spoke to The New York Times and saw parallels with the Manchester Arena bombing with the 2013 bombing at the Boston Marathon. Said Adelman, “It’s less like the Bataclan than it is the Boston Marathon bombing, which also took place on a public street, surrounded by law enforcement. It was another target-rich environment for someone with bad intent.”
The New York Times’ piece also spoke of large-scale entertainment venues as ‘soft’ targets, due to their scale and potential for vulnerability. Security at such events has become more prominent as a result.
The best form of defense is to prevent an attack before it starts. All educated planners and established venues work from this protect and prevent mindset first. The key is to think about what you would do if there were a crisis. Discuss with your team, but keep it proportionate. Have the conversation with the venue about emergency plans. Make sure you have a channel to communicate situational awareness between your team and with the wider venue.
The ESA has been in the business of providing such advice to productions, promoters, and many event companies for years. Below is their staff safety protocol they shared with The New York Times after the Manchester incident:
In the event of an attack, there is bound to be an element of chaos. People in the immediate vicinity will respond on reflex and the need for self-preservation. However, as soon as possible, you need to start taking control to protect life and safety. This means:
1. Establish a mechanism for Show-Stop (which should be a part of your event emergency plans anyway for other types of incidents).
2. Security officials advise knowing your surroundings. Locate the exit closest to you and stay calm if an incident develops.
3. Do what you can to support the venue with emergency messaging (building alarm, PA system, video screens, mass texts, Twitter/Facebook alerts).
4. Get to your designated place of safety.
5. Await and respond to specific instruction from the police or the venue. When they respond, police officers may have no clear idea who is an attacker and who is an innocent bystander.
6. Put bags or items down, always keep your hands visible and immediately respond to any police requests.
7. Do NOT rush towards law enforcement.
8. Once cleared and out of harm’s way, start the internal event communication chain to let fellow team members/coworkers know you are alright (texts, emails).