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August 24, 2018

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Event Safety & Security

Protecting your event venue

How can event organisers protect their venues, employees and the public from the threat of terrorist attacks? Garry Jones, a committee member of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health’s (IOSH) Sports Grounds and Events Group, explores the issue.

Garry Jones, IOSH

Garry Jones, IOSH

The callous Manchester Arena terrorist attack in May 2017 – indelibly etched onto the minds all those involved – woke the events industry to potential threats.

As time passes, the industry needs to remain awake and alive to the threats presented and not slip back into a “it won’t happen at my gig” mentality.

Understanding the terrorist threat

The big question when assessing the risks involves understanding the terrorist threat posed. The national threat assessment in the UK currently stands at Severe, which means an attack is highly likely at some time, at some place. Details of the current threat assessments can be found here.

This national threat assessment is broad and not specific to your event, so you need to understand this to avoid knee-jerk reactions.

Consider a few questions. What does it mean for your event? What could make your event a potentially more attractive target than others and why?

You can get a fair understanding of the threat picture by reviewing various online sites such as The Terrorism Quarterly reports from Poole Re.

Understanding how vulnerable your event is

Next is understanding how vulnerable to the attack your event is. As you would think about the process you do to review slips, trips and falls, consider what makes your event vulnerable to various attack types.

For example, think about the attack method of using a vehicle as a weapon. Where on your event footprint is most vulnerable? Why is it vulnerable?

You should also put yourself in the mind of a terrorist; think like one. If you were planning to attack your site or venue, how would you do it?

Don’t just think about the roads, as attacks with vehicles can occur over any traversable surface – attackers are not interested in abiding by the Highway Code.

I would suggest that some of the most vulnerable times for this attack type would be ingress and egress, since they are fixed where an attack can impact on lots of people and achieve what they intend.


Determine the risk and manage it

OK, so now you know your threat and you know how vulnerable you are to certain attacks. The challenge now is to determine the risk, manage it, and decide whether to put mitigation in place.

Let’s use the vehicle as a weapon attack vulnerability again. Risk mitigation is scalable, ranging from PAS 68 Hostile Vehicle Mitigation barriers to doing nothing.

Yes, doing nothing is an option. But make sure you rationalise why.

Some of the mitigation won’t stop such an attack, but may deter or delay one, and that may be sufficient for you. Do not try to jump to putting mitigation in place without assessing threat and vulnerability first.

Let’s think about attacks that involve weaponry, be it knives, guns or bombs. How vulnerable is your event venue for this attack type?

Don’t assume that searching individuals on entry at the time of the event eliminates this vulnerability. If you receive a bomb threat call on an event, it’s a very lonely place for the decision-maker, with a lot of questions to answer.

Is it just a hoax? How confident are you there is no bomb present? Do you call the evacuation or not?

The decision-maker needs confidence and to achieve this they need to ensure a secure perimeter which prevents the attacker bringing the items into the venue. They also need to be confident that the venue was subject to a robust pre-search to ensure no weaponry was secreted on the footprint. By doing this, you can gain the confidence.

It’s all about layers: the more layers, the more effective and the more confident you can be about the decisions that are made.

securityDon’t assume that all the mitigation needs to be done on the day of the event, since there are significant and cost-effective methods you can build into your event and venue which can be classed as business as usual.

Good housekeeping, good security processes and a supported challenge culture can have a dramatic impact on the likelihood of the terrorist selecting your event/venue for attack.

Terrorists are looking for ‘attack success’. If they see a proactive, professional and challenging security regime and messaging, they may be deterred since they will fear failure. Do not underestimate this area when considering mitigation.

There are some excellent guidance tools on the National Counter Terrorism Security Office site. These can assist you in building resilience, effectively responding and reducing the impact of these attacks.  The advice is free and the majority of recommendations are free to implement. It just needs you to embed them into your working practices.

This is not usual business for risk managers and you have to consider if you are competent to assess these sorts of risks. Not understanding the risk properly can leave you very exposed. So if in doubt, seek training or external support.

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