Sporting events are no longer the most preferred target for terrorists, according to the Department of Homeland Security. Outdoor events, conferences, festivals, and other events featuring public figures are all vulnerable. And with over a thousand different-level attacks since 2015, it’s no surprise that safety and security are among the top concerns for event professionals.
The Massachusetts Convention Center Authority’s Public Safety Team is actively preparing for the unexpected and developing strong working relationships with first responders. The team is a partner in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ Large Venue Security Initiative, along with Gillette Stadium, TD Garden, and Fenway Park, as well as FBI representatives in Boston, the Massachusetts State Police, the Boston Police Department, and more. Once every quarter, the group meets to review the trends and security issues that the event industry is facing.
Today, in the second installment of our emergency preparedness series, we are exploring some of these trends to help make your event safer.
Most event venues are inviting and collaborative spaces, featuring a lot of glass and various pick-up and drop-off locations. These elements are now being reexamined and venues are moving towards hardening. There’s also more emphasis on traffic patterns, parking, and loading operations.
On the technology side, video surveillance and analytics, access control, and alert notifications are becoming a standard practice, especially for larger events.
Regarding crowd flow, venues are exploring ways to build a pedestrian flow into the building that goes through a traffic path, but brings people through a level of security screening even when they don't know it’s happening.
Event Trends & Security Tactics
As event professionals, we need to be extremely vigilant when we gather people and oftentimes, our job is namely to observe and report. This is where safety and security training, like the Suspicious Indicator Recognition & Assessment (SIRA) system, comes into play. SIRA incorporates many highly effective threat detection and mitigation protocols, allowing trained individuals to identify high-risk targets before an incident occurs. Having a trained staff extends your surveillance efforts to those at the ground level who are directly interacting with attendees. At the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center and the Hynes Convention Center, all staff is required to attend a SIRA training session at least once a year.
In Boston, we have seen the real-life impact of attacks on mass gatherings firsthand. We know that the importance of safety and security planning has grown exponentially not only for meeting planners, but for attendees as well. And when it comes to safety & security planning, it’ helpful to focus on event assessments and layered security.
At our facilities, we use a tier-based system to conduct event assessments and give the appropriate threat level (1-3) to each event. For example, a smaller event with a low risk can be a Level One, while an event with 40,000 attendees, extensive content, and public figures present might be categorized as a Level Three. Based on this assessment, our public safety team develops a customized strategy for each event.
Layered security utilizes different screening techniques and tactics to create security layers as attendees enter your event, but also within the event. For example, a keynote speech by a high-profile government official or celebrity may require an additional layer of security inside of your event for admittance. Those layers might be obvious (metal detectors, uniformed officers and K-9s) or behind the scenes, such as undercover officers and camera surveillance.
As violent incidents become more and more common, it is easy to start thinking about them as something inevitable. But, there are many powerful tactics and techniques designed to help us mitigate our collective risk. The key is to stay informed and work with your venue partners to bring the appropriate level of protection to your events.