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Off-Site Event Security Planning

An off-site event is an opportunity for your security team to really shine – or really not. The best way to avoid pitfalls and ensure a safe, secure and successful event is to follow a proven event security formula.

1. RESEARCH THE VENUE
In an ideal world, research would begin prior to venue selection, with a short list of potential venues and an experienced event security consultant engaged to address the cost and risk implications associated with each one. In the real world, the event security team may not be involved as early in the event planning process as venue selection, but much of the security work does take place in advance, beginning with an in-depth study of the rooms and facility where the event will be held.

A proven event security formula includes:

  1. Researching the facility and area.
  2. Considering the risks inherent in the event.
  3. Stationing staff strategically.
  4. Following access control policies consistently.

Learn Facility Specifics
Meeting and coordination with facility security management is a standard element of the intelligence gathering process that should inform the overall strategy and approach. In addition to learning the facility rules and regulations, security must study the facility floor plan and identify entry/exits, stairways and other access points. A location for the security control center must be selected, and control center equipment requisitioned, if applicable. The parking lot should also be assessed to determine the need for additional lighting or security escorts.

Learn Area Specifics
The advance team should gather details about the area surrounding the venue, including locations of the closest police station, airport, etc. Nearby medical facilities should be identified, although medical response and transport should always be coordinated with venue security. Many venues have established protocols with respect to medical situations, and some even have paramedics on staff. Security agents must be respectful of the venue's medical incident protocols while working with venue security to resolve medical situations in a cooperative spirit.

Document Key Security Information
Key details gathered about the facility and local area should be documented for ready reference throughout the event. This documentation should be maintained at the event security control center, if there is one, or agents should have personal copies to carry while on duty.

Event security consultants often develop a security briefing to be distributed to event attendees along with event information packets. The briefing might provide security contacts, fire escape routes, a reminder to wear security access credentials, etc.

2. CONSIDER THE EVENT AGENDA
Event security planners must consider and plan for the unique risks inherent in the event itself.

When event participants have access to sensitive information, security must assume adversarial competitors are motivated to compromise meeting confidentiality.

Security agents are guarding not against the actions of the many but of the determined few.

Confidential/Proprietary Information
At events where participants are privy to sensitive information, security must work on the assumption that adversarial competitors are motivated to compromise the confidentiality of the meeting. Security agents are guarding not against the actions of the many but the determined few.

Security agents for these events should be chosen with utmost care, because those with experience are more likely to know what to look for. People who are too curious, ask questions or try to cozy up to attendees and strike up conversations – these are just a few examples of behaviors that raise flags. Every security agent must remain alert for individuals behaving in suspect ways and intervene respectfully. 

To ensure that proprietary and confidential information is not compromised, security must establish liaison not only with hotel security but also with housekeeping and banquet staff, to coordinate daily room sweeps to capture and properly secure or dispose of potentially sensitive materials left behind by attendees. Plans should also be established to secure confidential information if there is an evacuation.

The presence of recording devices is another consideration. Security staff may need to conduct sweeps of areas where recording devices might be hidden, and policies may need to be established regarding usage of personal electronic devices for recording purposes.

High-Value Products
The presence of high-value products at an event poses a different set of security challenges than the presence of sensitive information. CCTV coverage and/or other security measures may be called for to protect physical assets.

Potential Threats
Venue management and law enforcement should be informed of any potential threats such as political activists, Wall Street occupiers, black-bloc anarchists, adversarial presence, protest, etc. If the event could attract attention-seekers who might drive into the building, there may be a need to create a buffer zone around the building.

Other Concerns
Event security planners should also assess the presence of the following potential risks and develop mitigation strategies accordingly:

  • Personal threat to an individual
  • Vulnerabilities created throughout signage
  • New venue hires

3. DETERMINE MANPOWER REQUIREMENTS
The single largest cost component in meeting and event security is the number of agents on the security detail.  Conducting advance planning of the specific venue and meeting agenda is the best way to determine the optimum number of highly-skilled personnel deployed, rather than relying on a fixed ratio of security agents to meeting participants. A thorough assessment of the sensitivity of the meeting, the venue floor plan including "back of the house" access, and configuration of general session and break-out meeting rooms will support identification of the most efficient and cost-effective deterrent and security value.

There are facilities where effective coverage can be provided with fewer security agents than the participant numbers might suggest, and there are other facilities where certain challenges might dictate the need for more officers than might be expected. 

Due diligence with respect to strategic stationing of staff is the key to maximizing deterrent value and cost containment. Engage with the security department and with meeting and event planners, and gather as much information as possible about the event, the facilities and floor plans, the spaces to be used by the client, access routes, etc. This information supports formulation of solid strategies to provide effective, streamlined coverage.  Of equal importance is deployment of sufficient relief staff to assure periodic breaks and rest periods for security staff so that fatigue does not generate inattention.

4. CONTROL ACCESS "BY THE BOOK"

100% compliance is essential.

Follow Procedures Consistently
Security agents must visually tactfully and efficiently inspect and verify the meeting access credentials of every single person seeking entry to any general session (often small break-out sessions may be somewhat self-policing).  100% compliance is essential. One lapse is all a competitive intelligence operative needs in order to infiltrate, so agents should be drilled to be consistent and make no exceptions whatsoever. Consistency reduces complications.  For instance, examining each person's meeting access credentials every time, without exception, reduces expectations that officers may relax standards "just this once." Making a single exception is a slippery slope.

If participants are asked to wear ID badges, security agents should reinforce the badge policy with an expectation for uniform compliance.

Balance Security Policy with Hospitality
Attendees from security-conscious cultures may be more inclined to comply with security precautions than those accustomed to a more casual approach to security, who might try to persuade event agents to make exceptions based on status, sympathy, etc. Alcohol is another factor that can be a predictor of potential issues. In all cases, consistency, couched in politeness and tact, is key.  Every security agent should be skilled in the art of "obtaining compliance" as an alternative to traditional hard-edged "enforcement".

CONCLUSION
Distilled to its essence, the event security formula is comprised of four simple elements: advance the venue, consider the agenda, station agents strategically, and follow policy without exception. But the nuances within these elements, and the requisite expertise, skills and training, increase in proportion to the risks associated with an event. When the stakes are high, a firm that specializes in event security may provide the best combination of deterrent value, cost containment and customer service.

About U.S. Security Associates

U.S. Security Associates (USA) is the market-leading, wholly-owned American, full-service safety and security solutions provider. With over 160 locally-responsive offices, international locations and over 50,000 dedicated professionals, they offer the most complete array of physical security, remote surveillance, and global consulting and investigations to ensure better outcomes for thousands of clients and a range of industries. Innovative applications of leading-edge, proprietary technology enable USA to rank annually among the world's best training companies, sustain the highest standards of quality, and underscore world-class customer service with unparalleled accountability. USA's rise as one of the largest innovative security solutions leaders is a natural byproduct of these differentiators and enables the company to provide the most Safe. Secure. Friendly.® environments for people, assets, and brands. For more information, visit www.ussecurityassociates.com.

For more information please contact:

Natalie Fischer, Marketing Manager
Phone: 770.643.7782
Email: nfischer@ussecurityassociates.com





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