Canadian Security Magazine

The components of planning a successful festival

By Barry Wilding and Ken Hoggart   

Features Opinion

There are many components to risk planning for a successful festival. We will cover the major components, however, this is not an exhaustive list.


Setting up a professional Command Centre is an investment but not as costly as one may think. Budget for a few extra radios, computers, incident software, a few dispatchers, and an experienced command centre manager and you have the foundation for command and control of any incident.  Setting up the process for information flow and the various courses of action are imperative.

Consider how the front line security will call in, how you will handle calls from the public and what protocol you will have for various situations or complaints. Some festivals force you to think on your feet because “we’ve never had that happen before.” Keep good notes for your post-event debriefing and for preparing for the next year.

Management Team (Peer Security)


Selecting a good management and supervisory team improves your odds for things going smoothly. Don’t skimp in this area. Get the right people with the right attitude and experience to do the job. The festival world is about good planning and improvising when necessary. As the great Samurai Miyamoto Musashi stated in The Book of Five Rings, “Be well organized but adaptable.” In other words, you should stay committed to your decisions but flexible in your approach.  The standard hierarchy of a Director, Assistant Director, various Managers, Supervisors, and coordinators sets up a good management and supervisory team for all of public safety.

Internal Security Team (IST)

At all of the festivals we have been involved in we have set up an Internal Security Team (IST) separate from our security vendors. This group should be comprised of festival-experienced security people able to work in a plain-clothes capacity (most of the IST members we employ have law enforcement, investigations and/or military backgrounds). The IST Team can blend into the crowd to observe the environment at access points and gates, identify and report any risk or liability concerns, conduct simple surveillance for intelligence gathering purposes, provide personal security for talent, and most importantly, emergency management and response for any incidents that may arise. This team is a definite asset to have at the festival. They become a resource that you can lean on and count on when stuff happens … and stuff does happen.  

Medical & First Aid

Procure the right people for your Medical and First Aid set up. Make sure you get someone who knows the festival culture and has experience in dealing with the various medical situations that arise at a music festival. First Aid will call upon security a great deal to support them during incidents where public and staff safety is a concern.  Part of First Aid should also include quiet safe spaces. These are areas that patrons can go to relax and feel safe in a quiet area to get away from the chaotic festival atmosphere.

The above components will assist with a smooth operation of your festival. Having these elements in place shows the public that you have done due diligence and provides you with peace of mind knowing that you have taken the necessary steps migrating risk to the public and liability to the promoters.

Always keep in mind that if you try to get the cheapest solution, you get what you pay for.

This is part two of a four-part web series on festival security. The next entry will focus on due diligence and risk mitigation.

Barry Wilding is a licensed security consultant with twenty years of concert, festival and major event experience (

Ken Hoggart is a security trainer, consultant, and operations manager for various security companies and promoters throughout Canada (

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