5 minutes with a security management expert

CIM spoke with Eddie Idik, director of Vital Risk Services Group, about managing risk for events of all sizes.

How has the security landscape for events changed? When I first entered the events industry 15 years ago, the security preparation was a straightforward task. A basic risk assessment, local police was consulted, security personnel were positioned at a specific access point to screen patrons as they entered the event and basic security cameras were recording if we were lucky.

Fast forward to 2019, the above actions still applies, but on a much grander scale. We are now seeing detailed risk and threat assessments conducted by security ‘professionals’ that is contextualised to the event, there is much better security intelligence that is being shared between public and private sectors (although this could be improved), allowing the venue managers and event organisers to prepare their security resources in more detail. The introduction of new security systems such as facial recognition cameras and communication technology does also help.

We have been sheltered to some degree from the wave of global terrorism – does that mean we can be less vigilant? I think the term would be ‘lucky’ more than sheltered when referring to acts of terrorism in Australia compared to incidents in the Middle East, South East Asia and the America’s. Australia has a proactive approach to terrorism through new legislation and counter-terrorism guidelines set out by our intelligence agencies, but this doesn’t remove the importance of our ‘eyes and ears on the ground’ being our frontline staff at major events and venues.

Security personnel usually take up 15 per cent of the workforce and cannot be solely relied upon to be the protectors of the venue/event, which means that the other 85 per cent of staff need to put their security caps on and if they see something, say something. A security briefing that includes this proactive approach should be communicated to all event stakeholders or to new staff members during their induction process.

What about smaller and regional venues and events? It’s always easy to say ‘that would never happen here’. Regardless of size and location of the venue, there has to be a certain level of security preparation to ensure stakeholders are able to feel safe and to take precautions to prevent criminal acts from occurring. One of my favourite sayings include, ‘vulnerability is measured by the venues resilience and susceptibility’. In other words, the venue can strengthen its resilience through security education programs for their staff, security awareness campaigns by getting the local Police involved and good reporting policies. Susceptibility can be improved with better security systems, maintenance of these systems which include access control and cameras within the premises. So, regardless of a capital city or regional venue, the same security DNA needs to be in place.

How has technology changed the way we can think about security? We have moved away from our basic analogue camera system which we were struggling to identify the clothes of an offender let alone their face which was practically impossible. These days we have cameras that can record at high definition – 4K quality, then capable of feeding back the recording to a database of flagged persons which will alert the security team that the flagged person is on the premises.

We can now secure and open doors from the palm of our hands through our smartphones. We can immediately send out a broadcast of an emergency incident occurring within our venue from the click of a button to all staff mobile phones to advise the location of the emergency, where to avoid and the safest way to evacuate the premises with Google map directions assisting staff to get to the nearest Assembly Area.

One of the big developments I have seen is the capabilities of rapid security screening for weapons at venues through technology such as the Metrasens product line which has the capability to scan 3000-3500 patrons per unit, per hour. These units are programmable to detect from the smallest of metals to ones that cause mass casualties such as the assault rifles, explosives vests, pistols and so on. We are now seeing these units used a major events and venues alike.

What are the common weaknesses you see in emergency response plans for venues? One important point I would like to make is, ensure you differentiate your Emergency Management Plan with your Emergency Response Procedures. This is a common flaw that I see in my field.

Another point is when planning your annual evacuation drills and exercises, don’t just concentrate on a fire emergency and getting people from point A to B. The emergency landscape is rapidly changing, and your exercises should also include holding people within the venue due to an external emergency by locking down the facility and providing first aid assistance to affected persons.

Does security get overlooked as it falls somewhere between the event organiser and the venue? With the current security climate, event organisers and venues are taking security more seriously and planning according to the risks associated with the specific event. These include event centric security assessments, intelligence reports and liaison with emergency services to ensure the event is a success.

When contracted security are engaged by organisers for an event, it is paramount that there are open communication lines between the venue security and contracted security teams which will ensure the security and emergency response to an incident is timely and adequate.