Speaker Blog by Jake Hernandez
It took just six minutes for tickets to sell out for “One Love,” Ariana Grande’s all-star benefit concert for victims of the Manchester bombing.
That there is such demand for the “One Love” concert shows that the suicide bomber, who killed 22 people and injured 116 in the attack on Manchester Arena at an Ariana Grande concert in 2017, failed to dampen the spirits and enthusiasm of concertgoers or deter crowds from attending high-profile events.
All fans entering the Old Trafford cricket ground for the benefit concert were searched. Authorities asked people not to bring bags and there were additional security checks taking place in the general area. Event Commander chief superintendent Stuart Ellison commented at the time that “we have dedicated resources, with a significant number of officers from the Greater Manchester Police and colleagues from other forces, some of which will be armed.”
Manchester is not alone in ramping up its event security.
In the past two years, we have seen attacks in public and event spaces ranging from sporting fixtures like the Boston Marathon and a Stade de France soccer match, to nightclubs and concerts such as the Bataclan in Paris and Pulse nightclub in Orlando, to Christmas festivals in Berlin. More than ever, guests are actively considering their own personal safety and looking for reassurance that organisers have a plan in place and a clear understanding of their own responsibilities if an incident occurs.
This absolutely should not deter events professionals, particularly as the industry is organising more unique experiences at a wider range of fantastic venues than ever before. The first step is to understand, but not exaggerate, the threat as it stands: terrorism is obviously a concern but most of the time the problems that do arise are rooted in the demographic or industry sector of the attendees themselves.
Just having an open conversation with an event client, particularly a large organisation, can provide a huge amount of useful information on potential problems – from historic targeting by single issue groups such as animal rights, to upset former employees that may try to become unwelcome guests. Being able to clearly talk about the threats to your event in a 3-minute summary is always a solid foundation.
With this in mind, you can then put together a set of realistic and achievable security measures to reduce the likelihood of each of these problems appearing. Writing it down and sharing it with your team becomes the basis of a security plan. You can also reach out to local police forces for help and input, whether it’s for a small or a large event – local neighbourhood officers are better for the former, and counterterrorism advisers would be a great source of information and feedback for the latter.
Assigning these actions to members of your team, or to the venue itself, will obviously make the task more manageable but will also generate awareness of the overall security plan. Simplicity really is key: if you feel like managing security is overwhelming, it’s definitely worth going back to the drawing board and thinking about where your plan has become too complicated and is prone to failure.