When we think of event security, we often picture large-scale gatherings at massive stadiums or venues. Robust security measures are evident at international events such as the Olympic Games and the Rugby World Cup or at concerts at major arenas. However, small events can still pose a significant security risk. Local sporting events, in particular, have fallen victim to a number of security issues in recent years.
In Europe, crowd violence during an under-19s soccer match between Bayern Munich and Olympiakos saw the game abandoned in October 2019. Bayern were leading 4-0 when about 30 people wearing masks or helmets invaded the venue and assaulted fans with clubs, resulting in several people being hospitalized.
Elsewhere, soccer matches in Africa have also seen their fair share of trouble, with reports and incidents of crowd trouble at local games. As a result, the Confederation of African Football recently hosted a two-day workshop for its 54 member associations with the aim of improving the safety and security of fans, players and officials during and after games.
Prevention before response
People often expect to go through various security measures to gain access to large events. For example, they might have their bags searched or have to pass through screening technology such as metal detectors. If it is a particularly high-profile event with important guests attending, they may even have to disclose some personal information before the day to verify their identity or gain security clearance.
The main goal of security isn’t to respond to threats — it’s to prevent them from happening in the first place. This is as true for small events as it is for large-scale gatherings. As such, there are several aspects event organizers and security professionals must consider to ensure the implemented security solutions are suitable for the event.
Ensure security is visible
Security — whether it’s personnel or technology — should form a noticeable presence. There is often a tendency to hide security measures due to concerns they will detract from the aesthetics of the event or make it appear unwelcoming. However, by hiding security teams and systems, event organizers are doing more harm than good as agitators will think the event is unprotected and may decide to start trouble.
Security measures should, therefore, be clearly visible. Not only will this deter any troublemakers or unruly behavior, but it will also provide reassurance to event-goers and make them feel safer. Plus, they’ll know who to go to if an incident does occur and be more willing to follow their directions.
Create security checkpoints
Another key way to protect people from security threats is to set up checkpoints away from the central hub of the event. This measure is often seen at large-scale events but can also be implemented at smaller gatherings.
Security checkpoints force agitators to confront security personnel (or registration staff) long before they can cause any damage. For instance, instead of installing the registration desk outside the auditorium doorway, it could be placed a few hundred feet away in the lobby. This way, uninvited guests can be dealt with before they reach the crowd.
Check IDs and belongings
To make sure people who attend the event belong there, it might be worth collecting identifying information such as their name, date of birth and address in advance when they register. This will make it harder for an intruder to assume someone’s identity. Ideally, guests would send a copy of their ID in advance of the event so that security teams can compare it to their ID at the gate.
This is the best way to confirm identifies and ensure only welcome guests are granted entry. However, depending on the type of event, this is not always feasible. In this case, a system must be put in place for security personnel to check all belongings; for example, by using a walk-through metal detector.
Control the crowd
The larger the crowd, the more likely it is that something can go wrong. But that doesn’t mean staff shouldn’t be prepared to exert authority when needed or feel comfortable managing groups at smaller events, too.
As part of crowd management, security teams may need to ask guests to move along if they’re blocking an exit, monitor entry and exit points to keep them organized and ensure guests don’t stray into staff-only areas or areas reserved for VIP.
It’s also essential the crowd in the venue never grows beyond the capacity limit. As such, all staff and security personnel need to work together to keep track of total numbers. Going over capacity can result in fines or incidents such as stampedes, particularly in confined venues. Devices that feature an automatic passenger count make it easier for security staff and venue managers to keep an eye on numbers.
Frank Baldwin is the CEO of UK-based 2X Systems, a security screening company that provides scanning technology, drawing on experts in the security and X-ray scanning industry. Their products include the 2X-833 metal detector. For more information, visit https://2xsystems.com.