Risk-based Approach to Festivals and Fairs – Part 1

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By Travis Strawbridge, Ty L. Richmond

Originally appeared in November/December 2022 Security Today Magazine

The event security industry, which includes concerts, conventions, sporting and other special events, was one of the sectors hit hardest by the global pandemic, as events ground to a halt overnight, but the sector has come roaring back to life with lightning speed.

While pre-pandemic, there were generally one or two major festivals at a time across the county, today, there are often six to 8 festivals occurring simultaneously. As the sector is in ‘catch-up’ mode with more events occurring than in any time in recent U.S. history, a risk-based approach to event security at festivals and fairs is more important than ever.

Risk-based Approach to Event Security

What is a risk-based approach to event security? A risk-based approach to event security starts with pre-planning through post-show wrap-up. It ensures that security has a seat at the table from start to finish. Security management teams work closely with event leaders and organizers to ensure consistency and success from show to city to venue.

Event security entails far more than staffing the venue with security staff. The process is complex and requires extensive coordination, communication and advance planning. Every venue requires its own specific strategy and roadmap, which includes extensive facility orientation.

Advance planning requires teamwork with the venue’s facility management and local law enforcement to put together a ‘best practices’ methodology that can be used to address a myriad of emergency scenarios.

Risk is a critical concern for every event. It is important for leaders to recognize risk management as a foundation of operational success and implement strategies to address risk proactively. Risks associated with employee well-being may be due to the lack of a strong safety culture, and therefore a workplace safety program needs to be an integral component of the event planner’s overall approach to risk management.

The organization can begin to safely manage risk by engaging in 360-communication. Event security leaders create a safety culture when they actively engage their team to communicate their safety vision and model safe practices. It is important to make the time to communicate your safety commitment through regular meetings, written communications and safety events. Open communication between leadership and employees supports expectations, engagement and motivation—all essential to a safe event security workplace.

When an event security team starts their preparation for a major festival, they review and analyze a comprehensive master list of what happened at other festivals. Under review includes everything from how many people required medical intervention, how much water was given out to festivalgoers, crowd management, potential assaults, thefts and occupancy rates. Hazard identification is a key part of any injury and illness prevention program. Unidentified, hazards cannot be mitigated properly. Review event records of accidents, injuries, illnesses and near misses to recognize trends.

Click here to view Part 2 of our Risk-based Approach to Festivals and Fairs.