Safe and Sound

Yves Duguay
December 09, 2014
Written by Yves Duguay
The unfortunate deaths of spectators at the Pemberton Music Festival in British Columbia and the Veld Festival in Toronto in recent months have raised serious concerns about the effectiveness of current security measures.
The challenge for festival organizers is to find the right balance between security and safety imperatives on the one hand, and customer experience on the other. Security for such events must be aligned with the mindset that is being promoted at the event along with the desired outcome: spectators securely accessing the site, enjoying the shows and becoming repeat customers.

The security and safety measures that we implemented during the latest edition of the Osheaga festival in Montreal, which attracted over 135,000 spectators, exemplify how that balance can be achieved.

In preparing for the Osheaga festival, we used an integrated approach for greeting and welcoming the guests, securing them through access points, assisting them on site, preventing incidents or accidents, and managing emergencies. By providing a systematic approach, the security team can create value for the organizers by reducing costs and liabilities, protecting revenues and most importantly, reducing the risks that could taint the event’s reputation.

The level of security required should be commensurate with the characteristics of the site and the event. This would include information ranging from the size of the crowd, the space available for each spectator, to the availability of alcohol on site. Based on this analysis, measures are identified and implemented to prevent criminal activities, dangerous crowd movements, property destruction and physical violence.

In addition, it is essential that event organizers push information through various means, including social media, to inform the guests about prohibited behaviours and items and the requirement to submit to a search as a condition of admission. Initial communications must be reinforced on the site through posters and announcements.

Furthermore, guests must undergo security screening. In our case, with Evenko’s consent, we elected to test walk-through metal detectors, similar to those we find in airports. The equipment was set to detect the weapons and prohibited items identified in the assessment phase. By informing, preparing and guiding the guests through the process, we were able to screen spectators at an average of 14 to 15 guests per minute. This led to the detection of knives, glass bottles, aluminum cans and metallic flasks. Drugs and drug paraphernalia were also found and turned over to the police authorities.

The last elements underpinning this approach are staff experience and training. Our partner, Fortas Security, has been able to recruit professional and experienced staff, familiar with a concert’s environment. Prior to the event, supervisors were trained on the usage of metal detection equipment and most importantly,  on the security team’s contribution to the guest experience through verbal and non-verbal communications.

Event security is becoming a domain of its own. In the United States, the University of Southern Mississippi has established a program to certify security professionals in that regard.

Undoubtedly, Canadian universities will soon develop similar programs, leading the way to the establishment of Canadian standards, while providing security professionals an opportunity to acquire the specialized knowledge and expertise to manage such events.  

Yves Duguay is the president of HCiWorld (www.hciworld.ca).

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