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December 29, 2006

SECURITY ALERT: Are we taking it seriously?

There’s much more to security than a placing a group of suited giants on the door of your event, but it seems people aren’t considering the issues as early on in the events process as they should be. EVENTS:review even recently heard of one new venue where they’d planned the designs without taking into account basic surveillance and monitoring systems like CCTV.

Admittedly, security is a broad term, ranging from basic safety for delegates through to protection against terrorism and the ability to protect confidential company secrets. But with the current high level of terrorist threat in London and nationally it would seem at best naïve for companies not to take the issues seriously. Not to do so would leave venues and organisers open to disastrous consequences and possible criminal charges.

Protect and survive
“Legislation dictates that security and safety measures are implemented for events, and the safety and security of all attendees is paramount,” says Ben Gunn of security consultancy firm Neovista Asset Protection. “Apart from anything else, in this litigious society that we live in, the sponsors of the event need to have addressed and considered the ‘worst case scenario’. Consultation at the early stages of planning will alleviate any oversights with security that can result in wasted time, re-planning and additional expense.”

Julie Page, head of logistics at production agency Line Up, agrees, saying: “Failure to address any of these areas adequately could have potentially catastrophic effects for a company or individuals involved, so it is fundamental that organisers work with clients to ensure clear plans are in place to protect against and deal with any issues.”

Gunn believes that good security pays dividends not just for the delegates but also for the organisers. “Security is the shop window to any business and a first impression makes a lasting impression," he says. "If your clients and customers feel safe and are content to work in a secure environment, then their natural instinct is to relax and that means they’re much more likely to produce results. A successful event depends upon client engagement, participation, commitment and accountability, therefore they must be secure – on all levels – to be successful.”

Feeling secure
Gunn’s thoughts are echoed by Trevor McNevin of EC&O venues, who is also chair of the AEV Security Working Group. “Security is vital to the success of an event," he says. "Event organisers, exhibitors, venue employees and visitors must feel that they are safe and secure when they come to a venue. EC&O Venues (Earls Court & Olympia Group) understands the importance of security for its venues, the events held within them and has dedicated venue security teams at both Earls Court and Olympia. Since their introduction six years ago the security of the venues and its events has improved massively and we have seen levels of crime, such as theft, reduce in proportion. Providing professional and visible security not only reduces the threat of crime but also ensures both exhibitors and visitors feel safe within the venues.”

But do all events really need security? “Unfortunately,” says Gunn, “yes, but at what level depends on several important factors. The main thing is that security needs to be considered. The level of security will be determined once the type, nature and location of the event have all been addressed. These factors will then identify the specific threats and associated risks."

Gunn states that every event should be treated independently. “Threats can vary and any organiser should take a threat very seriously. Thorough analysis, liaison with external agencies and appropriate counter measures should be incorporated into a robust security plan,” he explains.

Page breaks the threats down. “There are two basic kinds of security needed for events – protection of people, and protection of confidential information," he explains. "Every event needs the former, but only special events demand the latter, for example a new product launch in the pharmaceutical sector. Often these clients will prefer smaller, less-well known venues where security standards are exceptionally high and access is strictly controlled.”

At EC&O Venues McNevin has experience of a vast range of differet types of event, and highlights some of the main threats faced by his venues and how they go about rating them. “The main threat against venues today is undoubtedly the terrorist attack, so yes we should treat threats very seriously," he says. "Other serous risks include theft, damage, violence and protest against event content and context. Each event is assessed by the venue security team.  Some of the factors taken into consideration might include military presence, media interest, VIP visitors or speakers, and controversial exhibitors or sponsors.  If we believe an event has a possible security threat we inform the police who then conduct a full threat assessment.”  

Look at the risks

For Gunn the process boils down to three words: Liaison, consultation and management. “By discussing the event security with all the parties involved and tailoring the appropriate measures to the budget, the event’s image and public perception of that event, we ensure the security plan contributes towards a successful outcome," he says. "By conducting a thorough and comprehensive risk assessment, the security company will have discussed, addressed and documented all the possibilities.”
However, all those questioned agree unanimously on one thing: there are no guarantees. But by considering the options in as much depth as possible, you are doing everything you can to protect your delegates and staff… and nobody can ask for more than that.

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