For many people in the UK, summer time means BBQs, sunburns and festivals. Often all three at the same time. Whether you’re into music, books or worm charming, you’re sure to find an event or festival to suit your tastes. While some festivals have been running for a long time, the Cheltenham Music Festival will be 73 years old this month, others have become popular in a relatively short time. SXSW, for example, went from less than 1000 people watching a few local bands in 1987 to the biggest music, film and tech festival in the world. It has featured iconic musicians, industry moguls and sitting presidents and helped launch the careers of Skrillex, The Strokes and, more regrettably, James Blunt. Not bad for a festival that was opened by a band called 2915 Guadalupe.
The continuing rise in popularity of the festival, coupled with technological advancements, means more and more people are attempting to organising their own events.
If you are looking to organise an event, whether it be a brand new one or the latest in a long line of established events, it’s vitally important that the people attending can enjoy it safely and securly. Recent tragedies have lead to people becoming more watchful and wary at events than usual. So it’s up to you to do everything you can to put your paying customers’ minds at ease.
Below you’ll find a few vital safety considerations to make while you plan your event.
Find an Appropriate Venue
Planning your event security needs to be at the forefront of your mind right from the off. And selecting the right venue is a big part of that.
You should already have a pretty good idea of this but it’s important to create a profile of your event before settling on a venue. In your profile include all the different activities that will take place, how many people you expect to attend and their general demographic. The audience at a children’s book festival, for example, will have very different needs to an amateur wrestling festival, although both will involve a lot of onesies. This will give you a better idea of the kind of venue you should be looking for and the facilites you’ll require. Before signing up to use a location, make sure to visit it and keep the following in mind:
An event won’t last very long if people can’t get to it, so think carefully about where you place it. A smaller, more local event will need to be easily accessible by people in that local area. An event for trebuchet enthusiasts, on the other hand, will need to be a bit further away from civilisation. An event within a city, although easy for people to get to, can make it hard to keep out uninvited guests which can lead to overcrowding and the potential for confrontations. If your potential venue is on public property there will be different permissions involved than if it were taking place on private property. So be aware that you may require some special licenses or security requirements. If you’re not sure, talk to your local council.
Once you think you’ve found the perfect venue, you’ll need to make sure that pedestrians and vehicles are able to access and exit easily. City-based events will lack parking, but public transport may offer an alternative. If your event is in a field you’ll need to make sure it is easily accessible by the emergency services should the worst happen. You’ll also need to consider whether or not you’ll need to accomodate disabled people, people in wheelchairs and pushchairs. Hugely important is to check that there are enough emergency exits and whether or not they’re easy to find.
For health and security reasons, it is vitally important that your venue can accommodate the number of visitors. Overcrowding is incredibly dangerous and can land you in legal problems. But you also need to think about if your visitors are going to be seated or standing, or both? Will people be moving from area to another? If so, where are the potential bottlenecks? Ensuring people have enough room to move and are comfortable will go a long way to keeping them content and comfortable, while removing any unnecessary tension.
If you’re going to be providing food and drink at your event its important to make sure you’ve got enough outlets to meet demand. Hungry people are more irritable and prone to outbursts so keep those bellies full. If you’re serving alcohol you need to be prepared for the risks that that brings. Employing professional security guards is a must for a venue serving booze to ensure people who’ve had a few too many don’t start putting others at risk. Having a lot of cash floating around a venue also has the potential for problems. Large festivals are great opportunities for thieves and pick pockets to work so it might be worth looking into alternatives. Many companies provide cashfree alternatives which can reduce the risk of customers or vendors being robbed.
Managing a crowd can be really difficult, especially at large scale events with high numbers of visitors spread over a wide area. Wherever possible you should look to employ the services of trained security guards. Larger venues will have their own teams or have a contract with a security firm. Where possible it is best to use the existing security team at a venue as they will have a better knowledge of the venue and its security facilities.
Without clear communication channels between security personnel, the job of maintaing crowd control becomes nigh on impossible. Professional Mobile Radios (PMR) are the tool of choice for many security comaonies as they provide full control over the system, while you can tailor coverage and capacity to exactly match the location and size of the event. After determining the coverage area you’ll be able to work out what kind of radio system you’ll need, whether that’s simplex, conventional with repeaters or trunking.
Specialist systems, like Hytera’s XPT system, have an ‘all call’ feature, which allows the broadcast of urgent messages to all festival staff. So if there is a major incident or event that everyone needs to be aware of, the system can kill all the radios and enable one voice instruction to be transmitted to everyone.
Manual check ins are slow, expensive and can end up with large groups of people gathering with nothing to do but wait. Using digital check-ins eliminates the need for most visitors to be manually checked-in and speeds up the whole process. It also helps to create a reliable database of the event’s attendees, allowing you to easily and quickly identify any unauthorised members.
Make sure you set specific guidelines for bringing in bags and other items as part of the check in. Make it clear to the security team and visitors beforehand what is and what isn’t allowed to come into the venue. This will help you to minimise the risk of people bringing in items that could cause harm to themselves or others.
Protect Against Cyber Security
Cyber security is rarely out of the news these days and it has the potential to be a major risk to festivals and festival goers. To ensure your event doesn’t fall victim to cyber security attacks, consider the following as part of your security plan.
Key an eye on social media
Hacking of social media accounts is common and can be very disruptive to an event organiser. Be sure to monitor all your social media accounts and the audience that engages with your posts. Once hacked, the hacker can write anything they want, seemingly from the event organisers themselves so keep an eye on your output.
You should also be vigilant about what people are saying about the event. Many criminals will make their plans over social media channels like Twitter and Facebook, so do regular searches for the name of your event to see if you can spot anything before it becomes a problem. If you do find anything worth reporting, tell the police. Threats over social media are taken very seriously by the autorities and many regions have their own social media divisions.
As an event organiser, online payments will make your life easier as you’ll have a database of who’s interested, who’s coming and who’s paid. Your audience will also expect to be able to register and buy tickets online. Having a secure payment portal, therefore, is vital for yourself and your customers.
If you’re not sure about the best way to go about this it might be worth using a trusted payment platform like Paypal. This will not only provide you with a reliable service, but it will also add trust to your event as your customers will recognise a quality brand.
If you are tech savvy and decide to build your own payment gateway, make sure it is encrypted properly. Losing people’s personal data or exposing them to the risk of being cyber mugged is a sure-fire way to kill your event before its started.
Have an Emergency Plan and Stick to it
Create a risk-based emergency plan and put it in place well in advance of the event, ensuring the level of emergency planning is proportionate to the event. Having ambulances on standby probably isn’t neccessary for a cheese tasting festival, but it would be if you’re planning an amateur boxing event.
Some standard emergency risks to consider are injury, fire, bomb threats and natural hazards, though there may be others due to the locality or type of event. Some emergencies are more likely during certain activities more than others, so you should consider your risks in realtion to the activity and plan accordingly. It’s vital to ensure you have considered all potential risks and create appropriate responses for each.
Monitor Your Event Throughout
After your event is underway is when the hard work of keeping your attendees safe really starts. Your security team will need to be in constant communication to ensure there are no potential risks developing and to quell any before they get out of hand. They need to be reporting on how the planning you’ve prepared is being delivered and handling any possible problems according to the plan.
When the event is over, hopefully without any major security incidents, it’s important to reflect and determine if there are any improvements you can make for next time. Try to identify any incidents that didn’t cause any problems this time but have the potential to next time and determine what you can do next time to avoid them altogether.
This is not an exhaustive list as every event has their own set of unique hazards and security risks that will need to taken into consideration. Although you can’t plan for every possible mishap, it is important to be meticulous in planning your event so that you can remove as many threats to your customers as possible.