Ensuring security for all is a vital aspect of putting on a safe and successful event. Andy Haslam CPP, managing director at ASK International, shared his thoughts on the subject with Sound & Stage as we attempted to crack the security code.
S&S: In your opinion, how would you describe the current state of the safety and security industry within the Middle East?
The safety and security industry in the UAE, in our opinion, falls short of international best practice. This is primarily due to poor service providers and inexperienced or ‘cheap’ promoters. Budget considerations are always at the fore and it appears to us that security is a bolt-on service rather than a part of the holistic event planning process.
I do sympathise with professional promoters and event organisers that wish to deliver a solid professional event when certain suppliers, within our industry, are unable to deliver the specific skill sets required within budget.
An example of this is that, often, it is the event organiser who formulates the number of security staff required. This may be based on experience but is often budget driven in order to maximise profit, rather than maximise safety and security.
No security assessments have been made by suitably qualified security professionals and, too often, security providers within the UAE receive this request and simply deploy their staff and let them get on with it.
This does not provide a service to the client, fails to adequately protect the supplier’s own staff, exposes the public to greater risk and, ultimately, falls short of what is required to satisfy best practice. It is unfortunate to say but with-out far more robust and suitable legislation that is enforced, the changes required will not materialise.
S&S: How do you come up with a plan for how to arrange the on-site security ensure a safe event? Is there a standard set-up across each site or does it change accordingly each time?
The event organiser, whether this is an individual, a collective or government, has the overall responsibility for protecting the health, safety and welfare of everyone working at or attending an event. Security providers, such as ASK International, are contracted to ensure that sufficient standards are generated and managed.
This is based primarily on the principles of health and safety management and risk assessment, in relation to the number of security staff required to ensure the health and safety aspects for all on-site, while taking into consideration the number of guests. Ratio of these guests per venue area and the security required will be different and will require a particular configuration of elements, management, services and provisions.
Dictating the number of security staff required starts with effective planning and prevention through identifying, eliminating and controlling hazards and risks.
A time period needs to be set aside for effective planning and will be very much dependant on the following direct factors: type of event and artist; location of event; size of event and capacity of venue (including site design); target audience demographic and available ticket sales versus venue capacity.
The following indirect factors must also be considered: multiple events on the same day; timing and duration of event; quality of security, organisers and contractors; police support; alcohol sales and age restriction; weather; number of access control positions within the venue; type and position of fixed and/or temporary structures; number of emergency exits within any open/closed venue.
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S&S: Talk us through the basic outline of how you would plan and execute the successful security requirements needed for an event.
While recognising that it is difficult to place specific numerical values on security assessments, it is nevertheless essential and inevitable that some form of quantified assessment be made. The assessment should reflect a considered and reasonable overall judgment of the deployment taking into full account all circumstances and factors affecting the final outcome.
The phases and planning issues of any event can be considered in separate parts: “The build-up” involves securing the venue from a perimeter fence perspective while allowing construction to continue.
“The load in” then involves access control into the venue and securing the equipment while on-site, followed by “The show day”, which involves a complete site lockdown effectively managing the access of contractors and crowd management strategies, transport management strategies and effective planning for fire, first aid, crowd management, contingencies and major incident issues.
After this, “The load out” involves effective access control both in and out the venue, and “The breakdown” involves general venue control.
To provide a comprehensive overview to all aspects of security deployment and planning it is paramount that an event security plan be produced, to not only include show day operations and deployment but also threat and risk assessments for the event.
The purpose of the assessment, again, is to identify threats which could cause harm, assess the risks which may arise from these threats and decide on suitable counter measures to eliminate, or control, the risks.
There are five steps which need to be taken to assess the risks associated with security deployment for the event. Step one: identify the threats associated with activities contributing to the event, where the activities are carried out and how the activities are to be undertaken. Step two: identify those people who may be harmed and how.
Step three: identify existing precautions, e.g. venue design, organisers’ operational procedures or existing “safe systems of work”. Step four: evaluate the risks then, step five: decide what further actions may be required, e.g. improving venue access, transport management, crowd flow, etc.
Taking into account all of these factors — including a risk assessment of either low, medium or high — a security “DOT” plan can then be generated.
S&S: What are the main issues with security and safety when it comes to crowds in this region of the world?
Having no set rules and regulations by the government covering events within the UAE is one of the main issues within the events industry.
With no governing body it is the responsibility of each individual promoter/organiser to ensure proper health and safety practises are in place and, unfortunately, in many cases this practice falls short of international standards due to factors such as budgets, inadequate vendors and a simple lack of experienced promoters.
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S&S: Does the multicultural nature of the UAE produce any obstacles regarding event security?
With over 200 different nationalities living and working in the UAE, the number of expatriates has passed the 2.6 million mark. However, the UAE was ranked as the least friendly country for expats to live in, according to the HSBC Expat Explorer Survey, carried out from May to July 2011, of 3,385 expatriates in 100 countries.
The top three spots went to New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa (in that order). The “friendliest” measure was based on ease of befriending locals, learning the local language, integrating into the community, and fitting into the new culture.
Despite this “diversity” and issues experienced within different types of events — based on the demographics of the attending audience — I think security staff are more hindered by the fact that certain laws prevent the officers from performing their assigned task.
An example of such is that, in the UAE, security personnel do not have the power of arrest even under the jurisdiction of “citizen’s arrest”. Most countries around the world do have this, therefore it causes problems — especially with unruly attendees and ejection from any site.
S&S: What do you think the difference is between having visible security as opposed to hidden security?
Visible security can be defined as security personnel that have a visual presence within an event. They need to be visible and easy to locate by event organisers, as well as guests at the event that may need assistance in the event of a health or a public safety emergency.
Hidden security is normally defined as electronic surveillance systems used to transmit a specific signal to a set of monitors or recording devices, or covert security staff who monitor rather than react.
Visible security plays a central role in all layers of security. All of the technological systems that are employed to enhance physical security are useless without a security force that is trained in their use and maintenance, and which knows how to properly respond to breaches in security.
Security personnel perform many functions: as patrols and at checkpoints, to administer electronic access control, to respond to alarms, and to monitor and analyse video feeds.
Hidden security play a vital role in normal society by means of protection and surveillance systems and are a vital part of the physical security’s equipment during events. But, regardless of the advancement in technology in hidden security, it would never replace the physical security guard.
It must be said that both hidden and visible security can refer to physical security in the form of a physical presence and undercover officers, while also referring to visible and hidden surveillance equipment.
The only drawback for electronic surveillance systems within the event industry is that areas covered by the cameras are limited, due to the infringement of privacy and freedom laws within the UAE.
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S&S: How do you ensure that your security staff are equipped to deal with any issues that may arise, from minor incidents such as a scuffle to a large-scale stampede or crowd surge?
Security practices and procedures cover a broad spectrum of activities designed to eliminate or reduce a range of potential hazards (loss, damage, or injury). At ASK International we ensure all our officers are graded and have sufficient knowledge and training, or have received such training to a recognised standard in order to perform tasks set out by venue management as dictated by each venue or a particular event.
For event deployments, our primary deployment is of Grade A security and those Grade A event security staff are further split into three categories dependent on their specific skill sets, experience and for ease of deployment: Grade A 1+, grade A 2+, and grade A 3+.
Grade A Security officers are ranked according to their qualifications, experience, size and training. The roles and responsibilities of these officers differ and are dependent on the grade that the officer has obtained. Most security officers of a higher grade are qualified to perform all the duties of the grades (see box out). They are also required to supervise the security guards in lower grades.
Based on the specific risk assessment for each event and the specific areas that need security coverage, graded security officers are then assigned.