When managing large scale events for a company using unfamiliar venues the task will normally start a few months prior to the event with the coordination meetings. These can involve a whole myriad of specialists from the overall event manager, logisticians, caterers, and the key speaker liaisons to name but a few. Your role at this point as the security manager is to ensure that during the planning phase, security is considered and advise on precautions to be made at each phase of the event, from start to finish. It's vitally important that you fully understand not just the threat but the aim of the event, the company hosting it, their brand and image so you can balance the security precautions you put in place accordingly. It's also an opportunity to network and get to know the personalities from within the event coordination team which will make managing security so much easier. You can also start putting together the operation order (op order) and warning off personnel that will make up your team.
As with any security task if there's an opportunity for a recce it's important to take it, even if you've used the venue numerous times before. It's time to get to know the building layout, acquaint yourself with the key venue staff, especially the in-house security manager and in-house security team, start to familiarise yourself with the areas of the venue that will be frequented the most and if you have VIP's in attendance then identify what additional facilities are available to them. It's also a great opportunity to check out medical facilities, work out what level of medical staff they use if any, have they got their own medical room, response times of emergency services and drive times to medical establishments. It's worth noting what standard their health and safety is at, are their fire exits clear, are all fire extinguishers on their stands and do they look correctly maintained, are the areas clear of trip hazards and are they displaying the correct signage that could indicate a good health and safety culture within the venue. At this point you can also recce hotels to be used, local transport links such as train stations, restaurants that might be used for offsite dining and the hospital.
Nearer the event and once the itineraries have started to be finalised, although they are likely to change right up to and throughout the event, you can start to brief the team. Team numbers will be determined by understanding the event, threat and what in-house security assets you have available in support. If possible it's ideal to have personnel on your team that you've worked with previously on such tasks and that may have worked at the venue before. Kit lists can established, comms agreed and vehicles to be used sourced.
The security team will usually start the task a few days before the actual event commences so the ops room can be set up, the team can be allocated to task, re-familiarisation with the venue (the more times the better) and professional relationships with the in-house security team re-established. The relationship with the in-house security team is absolutely critical in managing the event without incident. Hotels, transport links, restaurants and hospitals will also be re-recce'd during this phase. The itinerary and venue layout should be memorised at this point also so if you need to respond to an incident you can do as quickly as possible. But also so if you are asked a question by a delegate or VIP at the event that you can answer without having to rustle through your op order and itinerary. Although it's not the end of the world if you do, it certainly looks more professional if you don't have to.
During the event it can mean long days and vigilance is key to ensure only those authorised to attend do so. When working with an in-house venue security team they should know the venue inside out and your teams role will be to work in conjunction with them and ensure the level of security provided meets the standard the company who hired you expects. This is where the relationship with the in-house security manager is vital so if you determine the venue security staff aren't working to the required standard then it can be addressed at the earliest opportunity. If you are providing close protection for VIP's also then it's likely a lot of your time as the security manager will be taken up with executive assistants and project managers to ensure the VIP's are hosted and their security managed at the level of which they will expect. Good deputy managers are worth their weight in gold at this point so they can be left to run the team while you deal with the more managerial side of the task. At the end of the day, once the delegates have left then areas should be checked for potentially confidential and sensitive information that may be left before destroying it appropriately and any lost mobile phones, laptops, tablets and property can be identified. Finally a debrief of the team to gather any lessons learnt from that day and preparation for starting the next day will begin before doing it all again.