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Large Event Security: The Key is in Proper Planning

Large Event Risk

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

The number of large events tends to increase during the spring and summer and with winter now winding down it is a good time to have a discussion about large event security. Event organizers will tell you that prior planning is crucial for an event to be successful.

The same holds true for securing an event. Security is not just a subset of the larger event plan but is arguably one of the most important aspects of the event and, therefore, needs to be carefully considered and planned with planning beginning months before the date of the event, if possible.


First Step: Risk and Threat Assessment

Risk and Threat Assessment

Like anything else in security planning, the event security plan needs to start with a comprehensive and event-specific Threat and Risk Assessment. The size of the event and the type are the first two things to consider when starting the Threat and Risk Assessment include the of an event. A large rock concert will have a different risk and threat picture than a car show and any event where a well-known personality such as prominent CEO, Hollywood celebrity, political figure, or controversial speaker all come with their own unique concerns.

Obviously, specific known threats to the event, the type of attendees or key figures such as keynote speakers and high-profile speakers are taken into consideration. However, a seasoned security professional knows to also take into account general threats that may be exist due to historical, political, or other symbolic significance of the event or venue; duration of the event; cultural, political, and religious backgrounds of attendees; and the extent and type of media coverage.

Other key areas to cover in a comprehensive threat and risk assessments include understanding the immediate area around the venue and researching crime rates and types of crimes common in the area such as robbery, assault, vandalism, drugs, etc. is essential. Also, the assessment should evaluate the potential of natural disasters, power or transportation disruption, protests, gang activity and even terrorism. And now, after the October 2017 shooting in Las Vegas a new emphasis should be placed on other buildings, particularly large, multi-story structures, that could pose a security and safety risk.


Engage Stakeholders in Security Planning

A large event impacts not just the venue and those attending the event but also has an impact on a large number of internal and external stakeholders that should be engaged and offered an opportunity to provide input. Internal stakeholders include event organizers, maintenance staff, facilities engineering personnel. Fire, EMS, and police input is essential. They will have specific needs such as possible staging areas for police vehicles, fire apparatus, ambulances, etc. and will need immediate access to things like sprinkler connections, fire hydrants, utility panels and may have specific requirements for entry and egress routes for emergency vehicles. If the event will host or be attended by VIPs, they may require certain things that need to be taken into consideration, so it is vital their respective representatives be contacted to determine those needs. Some things to consider for your VIPs include:

  • Will they have their own security detail?

  • Will they require a special entrance?

  • What are the procedures for getting them to and from “green rooms” or other VIP holding areas?

  • Will they require access, staging and parking for limousines, buses, or other vehicles?

It is also important to keep in mind that a large event impacts not just the venue and attendees but also the surrounding area. Local businesses and even community groups that could be affected should be consulted and given the opportunity to provide input.


Developing the Plan

Developing the Plan

Planning and managing large events must account for the likely worst-case scenarios which could include major crimes, violence by protestors or even disturbances within the venue by attendees. As well as the typical incidents such as fights, theft, and drunkenness. Taking into account the results of the Risk and Threat Assessment weigh the security measures that could reasonably be taken to ensure a safe event that is still enjoyable and, if applicable, profitable for the venue or organization hosting the event.

The event should be protected by at least three layers of security: inner, middle, and outer perimeters. Transit routes and walkways into and throughout the venue need careful consideration due to their inherent vulnerability. The size and layout of the three perimeter layers and transit routes then determines the specifics of the overall plan which should address several questions:

  • What security posts are required and how they are staffed at each layer?

  • How many security personnel will be needed at each post and what equipment will be needed?

  • Where will the security command post be located and how will it be staffed?

  • What special skills will be needed such as information technology specialists, administrative support, canine handlers or bike patrols?

  • Will AEDs and First Aid Kits as well as people qualified to use them be needed and if so, where should they be available?

  • What type of access control devices and procedures will be required to manage security for an event’s outer, middle, and inner perimeters? What is the plan for vehicle traffic and pedestrian control?

  • What type of credentialing system will be used for staff, speakers, VIPs, security personnel, etc.?

  • How will vendors and deliveries be managed?

  • How will emergency responders access the event in an emergency?

Lastly, a crisis management plan has to be included that specifies actions taken for any potential incident. This part of the plan needs to be specific, able to be quickly implemented, and understood by all security personnel, event staff, and event management.

Abraham Lincoln is quoted as saying, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” Although it is not glamorous and can certainly be mind-numbingly tedious, a proper plan is vital for a safe and successful event. It starts with a comprehensive Risk and Threat Assessment, engagement with all vital internal and external stakeholders, and then developing a well thought out security plan based upon all the data and input received a venue will be better prepared for incidents reduce emergency response times, and a provide a heightened sense of safety throughout the event.


If you need help planning security for your event or just have a question or two, give us a call at (850) 629-9677 or drop us a line at

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