No matter the size of your event, keeping your guests safe and comfortable should be a number one priority. It’s important to have the appropriate security measures in place in order to control crowds, protect high-profile attendees, protect guests and their belongings, and protect the venue.
The security measures put in place depend on the type of event you are throwing, number of guests expected to attend, and type of guests attending. Although paramount, security measures should always seem non-excessive to keep guests feeling comfortable. Extra attention needs to be placed on security especially if your event has high profile or celebrity guests attending, if your event is a rare and coveted occasion, or if your event is controversial enough to attract media or angered individuals.
In the following we’ve listed the top 10 things you must be aware of and prepared for in order to have a safe and successful event:
1. Access Control – Your first defense against keeping a situation from arising within your event is controlling who is allowed inside. If you’re throwing a public event open to all, whether it’s free or paid admission, consider setting up a pre-screening area in front of the event gates, with metal detectors and trained professionals to clear out any potentially harmful items, or people with the wrong intentions. Let your guests know beforehand what is and what is not allowed inside the event, either on the invitations or on an announcement posted at the event gates. It’s up to your discretion whether to keep confiscated items and return them upon departure, or simply have guests discard items at the gate or return them to their cars or rooms.
For a guest-listed event, require your invitees to show a picture ID at the entrance in order to receive their event access badge. Not only does this provide an attendance record, but it keeps out any party crashers or people with the intent to do harm. For high-profile events, require they bring their invitation as well as a photo ID as an additional security measure. Maintain special entrances and security measures for high-profile clients who may be targets of threats, or who may be hounded by large crowds due to their fame.
Access control extends to the staff as well, requiring all staff to show ID in order to obtain access badges into the event, with varied levels of access clearance depending on their job responsibilities. Obviously caterers and wait staff need access to a kitchen, but do not need access to the stage, rigging, and lights. Furthermore, make sure there are ways for your staff to identify other staff, either with credentials, or by having them all wear identical uniforms, t-shirts, or the same color.
2. Boundaries – Make sure that if your event venue is fenced off or separated from the outside world, if not already. You want to make it clear to your guests what is considered inside and outside of the event, simultaneously keeping unwanted people out.
3. Medical – Every event should have a doctor or EMT present with a first aid box and ambulance, ready to respond to a medical emergency should one arise. If hiring such an individual for your event is out of your budget, make sure you have someone in your staff trained in first aid and CPR, able to perform tasks such as checking for breath, executing chest compressions, using an automated external defibrillator (AED), and controlling heavy bleeding. You never know when someone could have a heart attack or asphyxiation due to choking, so having knowledgeable individuals around could mean the difference between life and death for a guest.
4. Fire – Make sure you have fire-proofed your event with as many preventative measures as possible, meaning plenty of extinguishers are in place, having a pre-planned exit strategy, making sure exit paths are illuminated in the dark, and keeping a path clear for help access. Make sure your guests and staff are somehow aware of the fire evacuation plan as well, either on the invitation, program, or some other signage. For the full fire preparedness check-off list please refer to our fire safety article.
5. Liquor – If you are planning on serving alcohol at your event, make sure you are informed of all alcohol liability laws and obtain the proper insurance so that you’re covered in the event of an alcohol related incident, either at your event or on someone’s drive home. If you have minors attending your event, have a method in place for preventing underage drinking, either with ID-checked wristbands, stamps, or even separated designated drinking areas. Additionally, have a plan in place for dealing with guests who over-drink and make sure your bartenders are trained to stopped serving guests with visible signs of heavy intoxication. Have staff in place ready to escort belligerent and troublesome drunks off the premises. It may also be a good idea to set up several cots backstage where guests who over-drank can rest and rehydrate until help arrives.
6. Power Outage – If the power goes out locally, meaning only at your venue, make sure you have technicians on call to investigate faulty wiring or overloaded circuits. It’s also a good idea to have backup power sources like generators in case of a mass blackout. No matter what the cause of the blackout may be, always be sure to have lamps, candles, flashlights, and glowsticks ready just in case, as well as luminous exit paths so guests can find their way out.
7. Equipment Failure – First and foremost, try to only use high-grade equipment from reputable brands to prevent any failure during your event. If a piece of equipment does go out, having the right light and sound technicians on hand can save you a world of stress. Make sure you hire technicians that come with their own equipment, therefore they are familiar with repairing and replacing them. Also make sure you have backup equipment on hand, for example extra bulbs, lamps, speakers, and microphones, should one of these items go out.
8. Fights/Brawls – When people and alcohol mix, arguments are inevitable. The best way to avoid fighting situations is to have them broken up immediately and the assailants escorted from the venue. The right security staff will respond quickly to incident reports and diffuse a situation before it becomes a situation.
9. Bouncers & Patrolling – Whether they are in full black suit and tie, or incognito dispersed in the crowd, bouncers and security personnel should be continually patrolling your event and assessing potential problems. By making simple observations like seeing how people interact and making sure no one’s getting too drunk, they can help you maintain control over your event. They should also be checking rigging, lighting, and cords, making sure no water is close to any electrical equipment, and no hot lights or live wires are close to anything combustible. Make sure to have all your security staff on walkie talkies so they can better communicate with each other.
Sometimes just the appearance of security can discourage malevolent people from trying something. This type of “security theater” is similar to traveling at the airport, in which extensive and tedious screenings give the appearance of safety, further deterring anyone from trying anything.
10. Threats – Even though most actual attacks are not preceded by warnings, when it comes to receiving stated threats, you should always still take them seriously. Firstly ask yourself the following questions: what could someone gain by hurting your event? Do you have high-profile VIPs attending, that someone could hurt for personal gain? Or does disrupting your event provide an opportunity for exposure? Does the history of the event or the venue make it a vulnerable place for attack? Discovering the motives behind potential attacks is the best way to learn to prevent them. Do your homework beforehand by being proactive in gathering intelligence. If your event is for a controversial company, be prepared for protestors outside the front gates with plenty of harsh words to dish. Have your security team follow up on all threats received and clear necessary areas if need be.
In conclusion, having pre-planned security measures in place, as well as an emergency plan of action can help you deal with unforeseen circumstances without a large effect on your event. Remember your first defense against security breaches are deterrence, prevention, and emergency preparedness. If you have all your rooks in play, you’ll be prepared to handle any sort of incident.