As a former Chicago police officer and someone who has worked in security for a number of years, large event planners and popular event venues have hired my company United Services Companies to provide event security. Up until September 11, 2001, I’m not sure that attendees of those types of large events have traditionally spent much time considering their safety and security at said events. However, in recent years, that has undoubtedly changed.

Typically, event venues and event organizers consider safety when planning events, and if they aren’t, they definitely should be. However, in the past, this consideration may have come as an afterthought. These days, it has become a much higher priority, and rightly so. With “active shooter” and security incidents looming larger and larger in today’s headlines, it’s hard not to be concerned about safety. But for those whose livelihood depends on planning or hosting events and meetings, that concern takes on a whole new perspective. Not only are you in charge of ensuring that attendees have a positive experience, but you must also take appropriate security measures. Other human beings are counting on you to plan your event with their safety not only taken into consideration but as a priority.

If you’re an event or meeting planner, now more than ever, you need to take a good hard look at security for any function you’re in charge of. With the ever-growing number of security and safety incidents, the world over, it is not time to sit back and be reactive when it comes to event security. Planners must be proactive with a security strategy from the inception of the event planning process. 

In organizing any function, the venue plays a significant role. Make sure you take security into account when selecting a site for the event. It’s vital to know all points of potential entry into the venue location. Does the venue have any windows that can be opened from the exterior? Are there back doors for “staff only”? The more access points a venue has, the more porous it is, and the more you must compensate with event personnel to secure those access points. All staff should be made aware of the venue layout and entry/exit points, including fire exits. 

Beyond the venue, event planners and organizers must conduct a risk assessment and have a risk management plan in place. Assessing the risks or hazards your event may pose is essential to being able to manage and mitigate those risks appropriately. Here are things you should consider in your risk assessment:

  • What are the venue’s emergency procedures?
  • Do all event staff have appropriate training in emergency procedures?
  • How easy is it for the public to gain access to the venue?
  • Are there enough security cameras? Are they actively monitored?
  • What are the potential hazards? Are there areas that should be cordoned off?
  • How can you ensure easy access for emergency vehicles such as ambulances and fire trucks?
  • Where will first aid and emergency services personnel be located?

Not only should you consider natural and environmental hazards, but also technological and human-related hazards. Consider all of the different individuals involved in the event. You will have people that set up the event, people that attend the event, and those who are in charge of running the event. Each group should be taken into consideration. What is the potential impact of each hazard if something should go awry? Prioritize the most significant risks and work to identify logical and practical solutions. 

While conducting a risk assessment is a significant step in the right direction, it is not the only security measure you must consider. Keep an eye out for the second blog in this two-part series, where I’ll continue to discuss measures event planners and venues can take to ensure the safety and security of all involved in their events.