Planning an event is as intense as it is stressful – tying together logistics so that attendees won’t notice the glue between the moving parts is exceedingly difficult to pull off.
On top of all that, keeping guests safe is an entirely different headache, and the larger the event, the more complex the security system becomes. When situations escalate, and emergency services have to get involved, those challenges amplify exponentially.
When an emergency occurs at an event, public safety is more often than not called. Whether it’s an ambulance to assist a medical emergency, or police to remove an unruly attendee, when push comes to shove the cops are getting called.
When security services call for help, they can guide them to the right section and seat with relative ease. But what happens when an attendee calls 9-1-1 on their own? Or worse, if a mass emergency occurs, like a bleacher collapse or an active shooter situation? It takes time for security services to manage, contain, and report these situations to public safety as they unfold.
While they work to regain order, however, panic is an inevitability. During the Las Vegas shooting in October 2017, first responders were reportedly overwhelmed by the sheer volume of 9-1-1 calls and congested radio traffic. In fact, there were over 1,500 calls to 9-1-1 within the first two hours of the shooting.
Although emergencies of that scale are thankfully rare, the Las Vegas shooting reinvigorated the need for interdepartmental communication. As is the case for many large scale emergencies, individual agencies were disjointed and struggled to communicate as the event unfolded. Event security personnel, police, and fire departments did not unify their commands, nor did they have a system to sufficiently share information between each other.
All in all, to improve outcomes, information needs to be shared seamlessly between attendees, security, and public safety, but communications channels need to be kept clear. But how can those goals be achieved simultaneously?
Thankfully, emergencies of that magnitude are rare – it’s an extreme example of the kind of things event managers have to prepare for. However, when they conduct risk assessments for a venue, security professionals have to consider how they might respond to any kind of disaster, whether it’s a mass shooting, an aggressive fire, or a massive brawl.
Consider that during emergencies, attendees are going to call for help regardless of any security protocol – they’re typically concerned with their own safety. How can security account for panic, especially during the most extreme events?
First and foremost, they can develop better, field-tested protocols based on previous events. Focusing on the common sense fundamentals can help reduce risk to the higher probability issues. Whether they’re contracted out privately or hired full-time by a venue, event security should strive to improve communications between all stations, event planners, and any first responders that may be on hand at the event.
That includes setting up checkpoints, verifying tickets and registrations with IDs, and nailing down lines of communications between different levels in the chain of command.
In addition, security should also consider how they escalate problems to public safety, or, in the event a guest calls 9-1-1 on their own, how they work with them to ensure the guest’s safety. It’s easy for communication to breakdown in practice, so drilling the fundamentals and sealing up any cracks is a great way to keep the security team on their game.
One of the biggest takeaways from the Las Vegas shooting was the need for interdepartmental communication, and the asymmetrical information shared between them. With so much data available between our smartphones and connected devices, linking them to security operations is an excellent way to ensure security and public safety are communicating effectively, and that guests are kept safe.
Whether it’s a medical emergency or a large scale event, getting more data into the hands of public safety can dramatically change the outcomes for all involved. Here’s a few technologies to consider
1. IoT connected cameras and surveillance systems
Installing IP-based security cameras equipped with smart sensors can both improve situational awareness and deter wrongdoing. These feeds can be streamed to most devices, like smartphones or tablets, so law enforcement can tune in when needed.
2. Direct data links to 9-1-1
Allowing guests to send their personal information to 9-1-1 themselves can fill in the information gap between responders and the people they’re going to help. Ticketing apps can form a direct data link to emergency services so attendees can send profile information and precise location to expedite response and keep channels clear.
3. Social listening tools
Monitoring social media conversations surrounding an event is a great way to improve situational awareness, especially as conditions rapidly change. Leveraging a social listening tool to monitor keywords, hashtags, and sentiment at an event can help inform authorities about new developments as they occur.
Leveraging IoT technology to gather data, as well as employing best practices for interdepartmental communications, can help better protect guests and reduce losses for venues. Data can be provided through an event ticketing software or a registration platform, or even from the venue itself. Enabling cross channel communication and information sharing is vital to responding to the evolving threats that event security and public safety teams face.