Keeping Live Events Safe & Secure - Learnings & Insights From E3S2018

Earlier this week the second edition of the Event Safety & Security Summit (E3S) was held at the Congress Centre, London. The E3S Summit is an international platform dedicated to safety and security in the live events industry. The invitation-only conference brings together leading venues; festivals; touring and sport professionals; and security experts from around the world. This years event boasted 35 speakers and 22 separate sessions that stretched across the worlds of security and safety. LiveStyled’s CCO Harry Samuel was in attendance and shares his thoughts below.

The event commenced with Metropolitan police commander Lucy D’Orsi giving her insights on the importance of a strong security presence across both private and public sector agencies to combat the growing threat to ‘soft’ targets such as concerts, highlighting how “anything is potentially a target; anything is possible”. D’Orsi’s address mentioned a number of opportunities to improve the safety & security of major events and venues, including the the potential for crowdsourcing information from customers via mobile apps.

Next up, a panel discussed the need for venues to exchange information to aid the development of good practice as well as helping to build comprehensive solutions for perennial challenges. Danielle Kennedy-Clark, the Operations Director at The O2, mentioned that many security professionals are concerned about information falling into the wrong hands, but stressed the importance of sharing knowledge across the industry. “As a venue,” she commented, “we have a very close relationship with local authorities and other stakeholders […] but I do still feel a lot of the time security is seen as a big secret. We’re getting better but there’s still a long way to come.” A more open culture would enable the benefits of effective processes and systems to be disseminated as quickly and broadly as possible.

Other highlights included a speech by John Drury - no, not the General Manager of SSE Arena Wembley, a professor of Sussex University and an expert in crowd psychology - who spoke about how an understanding of principles of group psychology can contribute to safer events. A key takeaway from Drury’s talk was that listening, learning and understanding attendees can help to understand behavioural norms and help improve safety at live events. Knowing data about attendees of an event and identifying prototypical group members could enable venues and event organisers communicate threats and critical information through the most influential attendees at the event.

He had a lot of fascinating academic insights to share from studies carried out over the years and provided a new perspective which those in operational roles within the industry would never have the time to develop for themselves. These lessons need to be combined with the practical expertise of venue managers & event organisers to create workable solutions for the industry.

One of the most important talks of the day came from Lord Kerslake who went through the key points from the Kerslake Report, summarising his findings & recommendations from the attack on Manchester Arena last year. These have already been widely reported in the press so there is no need for me to reiterate them, however there was one detail which stuck in my mind. One of the many challenges experienced by the agencies who were working within the building was the incessant loud tannoy announcements which made communication difficult. It is already well known that the fire service entered the arena 2 hours late, which meant their resources & capabilities were not available to assist throughout much of the incident. Frustratingly, according to Lord Kerslake the only people who knew how to stop this tannoy system were the fire service. For me this emphasised the importance of having reliable & accessible alternative methods of communication available within the venue, between the various agencies involved, and between the venue and the general public.

In the afternoon we heard from Shaun Hipgrave, Head of the Joint Security and Resilience Centre, who talked about some of the new technologies which the Home Office is funding to facilitate screening of High Footfall areas. Speed of ingress is a critical factor in ensuring the security of live events so as to prevent bottlenecks and vulnerabilities outside the event perimeter, and this needs to be balanced against the need to screen all entrants for suspicious items & behaviour. The trials which the Home Office has been running have the potential to enable any significant threats to be remotely picked out of a highly mobile crowded environment.

The day closed with a panel on protecting the future of live events, on which all the speakers were unanimous in underlining the importance of event stewards. This was certainly a theme which emerged from my own conversations with the safety & security professionals I met on the day, several of whom highlighted the need for effective communication between safety & security staff and command & control operators. Eric Stuart, director of Gentian Events, a Crowd Safety Management Company, expressed his concerns around staff shortages after Brexit, and the panel as a whole was worried about the likelihood of further reductions to the already-limited pool of available talent to fill these vital front-line roles.

Overall it was an enlightening day at the Congress Centre which got me thinking about the challenges associated with keeping our industry safe & secure. There are so many factors which go into creating an amazing fan experience, but safety & security are the most fundamental aspects - without these, nothing else we do will amount to much. There has to be an opportunity to harness mobile & digital technologies to improve this, by facilitating two-way communication between venues or events and their attendees. Fans should be able to access relevant & timely information, both as part of preparation for their visit and in the event that something does go wrong on the day. And they should have a means of raising issues or concerns directly to venue staff.

However there are challenges ahead - what if the venue sends out a message which has unintended consequences? How can the venue effectively triage incoming reports of issues from the public? And is it even right to involve the public in matters of security, or is this the sole responsibility of venues and organisers? Over the coming months we at LiveStyled will be exploring these areas further and look forward to working with industry professionals to find answers to these difficult questions. If you have a view or ideas to contribute on this subject, please get in touch with us as we want to hear from you.

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