Event Security Series 4: Increasing the Public Perception of Safety at Events
This is the final post in my event security series, looking at the recommendations I uncovered from the research. My research was conducted via an online survey shared with the public on social media and received around 150 responses so this is a small snapshot of the general publics perceptions.
Event professionals should make sure effective security procedures are in place for all types of venues. Bag checks are currently the most used method of security and should continue to take place as the population agreed with a need for them to take place. The use of bag checks helps reduce the anxiety levels of attendees especially those that do not attend crowded events on a regular basis. Although it is important for bag search information to be communicated to attendees before an event, so they can pack accordingly and reduce queuing time on arrival.
CCTV is another important security aspect to have in place at venues, although not a preventative measure, knowing it is in place can act as deterrent to criminals through fear of being identified and allows attendees to feel crimes can be resolved through identifying individuals. The positive opinion on sniffer dogs demonstrates the public’s demand for more advanced security checks. Interesting people attending open fields and nightclubs agree highest with the use of sniffer dogs, both venues associated with drug use in which this could be a response too.
Police presence was the most sought-after security demand, as the public view the police as an icon for a higher level of safety. Using the police to spread positive messages about security at events and have them visible to the attendees when arriving and inside the venue could help reduce the fear from risk. At the same time having visible police officers can help alleviate anxiety it should also be considered to use undercover police officers; uniformed officers can act as a deterrent but if crime is to take place undercover officers can spot unusual behaviour and assess the public by blending in with them.
It should be noted from this study that the public want security outside the venue not just at the entrance, using multiple layers of security before accessing a venue like a large arena should become common place and can also be used at smaller venues. It is the response from the attack on Manchester Arena that first addresses this outside venue security issue, by bringing the perimeter further out it allows more layers of protection for those inside when entering and leaving an event. It is also important to know that attendees do not feel it will harm their experience if they have to queue longer to enter a venue as long as thorough security checks are in place for them to feel safe once inside. The presence of security has been identified as making attendees feel safe, so having security visible at the entrances and throughout the venue will be a simple way to make sure they are relaxed during an event.
Clear evacuation routes are another demand identified as helping reduce the publics risk perception when attending venues. Making sure emergency exits are clearly visible and having light up exit routes to help guide attendees out of the building during an evacuation can help reduce the level of panic and confusion and allow staff to get everyone out of the event efficiently. Part of this would also be increasing staff training to make sure all staff know the evacuation procedures and feel comfortable in carrying out their role if a situation were to occur. As the public want to be made aware of their emergency exits, it could also be advantageous to put out messages to all attendees inside a venue on where they can find the nearest exit similar to that when using aircraft. Security procedures are being demanded at all type of venues with very low difference in agreement levels towards the security procedures listed in this study. Although more advanced security is expected at Arenas, Festivals, and public spaces it was discovered those attending events at Hotels and Theatres agreed with more security being needed the most. This shows even the venues that are viewed as safe and are often overlooked when it comes to security needs by event managers, are showing a demand for security amongst attendees. Perhaps the presence of security personnel and bag checks taking place on entrance to hotels could help improve the perception of risk.
We saw with the Las Vegas attack in 2017 the use of a hotel overlooking an open event to carry in dangerous weapons and carry out the attack without having to access the event where security was in place. Having these extra layers of security in place will be of higher cost but with the changing methods of terrorism are preventative measures that need to become more common place.
Finally, it is worth recommending more in-depth communication to attendees of events about the security procedures in place. This can help alleviate the anxiety associated with attending crowded events as attendees are being made aware of the protection in place, as well as informing them of what to expect to enter the venue. Informing attendees of prohibited items, any restrictions on bag size and how much time to allow to get through the security checks would help make sure people are prepared and do not get annoyed by procedures they are caught off guard by.
Future Research would be to collect data from attendees whilst attending different events to get richer data into the opinions of security at each venue. It could also be advantageous to explore the feelings of attendees after experiencing differing levels of security to further understand when security does impact on the event experience. To gather more information on risk perception future research could be done over a longer period of time to see if perceptions change in the wake of any future terrorist attacks or without any occurring for a certain period of time.