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Shining a Spotlight on Better Event Security

Blog Post
4 Minute Read


Publish date

Aug 28, 2018

Mass shootings like the one that occurred this past weekend at The Jacksonville Landing entertainment complex and last year at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival in Las Vegas shake us to our core. They make us feel vulnerable in moments when we should instead feel excited. Large performance spaces have been cultural cornerstones for thousands of years because they uniquely bring together people regardless of race, creed or gender over a shared love for the arts. Attacks like these exploit one of the most powerful uniting forces in our society.

The challenge for security professionals is that these venues take a number of different forms. For example, in the Boston area you could see Moulin Rouge at the Emerson Colonial theatre, the Eagles at TD Garden arena and Cirque du Soleil’s LUZIA under a big top at the grounds of Suffolk Downs – all within the same month. As adversaries shift their focus to public places and become increasingly innovative in their strategies, we need a new approach to venue security.

A New Focus for Attackers

Since adversaries have moved on from hard targets such as airplanes, government facilities and military bases, there has been a significant shift to soft targets such as performing arts centers, sporting venues and arenas. While this is widely known – our CEO tells the story often of the anxious conversations he recently witnessed fellow parents having as he picked up his son’s friends to take them to an Imagine Dragons concert at a stadium – not enough is being done to address this new focus of keeping loved ones safe.

Further, the attack method and the perpetrator have changed. The rise of crowd-sourced terrorism has led to readily accessible means for an attack. Firearms, vehicles and home-made explosives are within reach as adversaries shift their focus from high-profile locations to anywhere people gather.

Raising the Current on New Security Technology

While attackers have focused in on specific venues, security screening technology has been largely unchanged. Today when you go to a see a show at a theatre, you’ll likely wait in line for sometimes 30-45 minutes before approaching a metal detector for which you have to empty your pockets or divest personal items before walking through. Many stadium and arena operators no longer even allow visitors to bring backpacks or other bags into their venues to improve the efficiency of screening.

Advancements in technology are changing this status quo, providing higher throughput and improved threat detection with less disruption. Some combine personnel and bag screening to help minimize removal of personal items and speed up the process. These technologies are using the latest sensors, software and user experience design principles to provide an improved level of security with a better visitor experience.

While technology is an important component to an effective security plan for a performing arts center, it’s just one piece of the puzzle. When building a security plan, facility managers should work to understand their threat vectors, vulnerabilities, and mitigation plans. They should incorporate the following components into a comprehensive security plan.

  • Intelligence: Understand and identify the threats to the area, building, and people in it. Work with various federal, state, and local enforcement agencies and leverage the facility team’s network of contacts. Threats are constantly changing; therefore, intelligence must be ongoing.
  • People and Training: Guards and officers serve as the frontline, they know the facility and the people in it. They should be trained on an ongoing basis in security protocols as well as identifying suspicious behavior.
  • Processes and Protocols: Facility managers can no longer use a “one-size-fits-all” approach to security. They need tailored systems and well thought out processes and protocols – like risk-based security – to ensure security layers are properly deployed throughout a venue.
  • Technology: As mentioned above, new technologies can provide threat prevention beyond the capabilities of guards to significantly improve screening operations. CCTV and access control expand the reach of the team on the ground. Further, facial recognition technology can be employed to recognize and authorize employees in an employee screening application or to adjust screening for VIPs.
  • Visitor Experience: With new technology and processes, it’s important that customer experience is not a secondary consideration – especially at a performing arts center. A security experience can maintain a level of calm and unobtrusiveness.

By employing a holistic approach, security guards and facility managers at performing arts centers can be armed with the information they need to quickly and confidently assure a safe environment for their visitors. With the right technology, they can effectively screen and adjust layers of security in response to changing threat levels without impacting visitors and their normal pace of life. In fact, when selecting new technologies, facility managers should look for solutions that provide a balance between improved security and a better visitor experience.

While related issues like the gun control debate may divide us, cultural experiences like seeing a show or going to a concert unite us. We can all agree that we deserve to feel safe in all the places we gather. At Evolv, we will continue to innovate to bring intelligence and security at the perimeter of soft targets to keep people safe – at performing arts centers and beyond.

Read more here about safeguarding against soft target attacks.