It is an unfortunate fact of today’s world: the risk of a co-ordinated terror attack is real and is a significant problem for the events sector. The threat to the UK from international terrorism is currently rated as severe, meaning that an attack is highly likely. Devastating recent attacks in London and Paris, alongside a number of publicised failed terror threats mean that security is right at the top of the agenda for event planners, particularly those organising events in large cities or events that are large or high-profile.
Many event planners feel vulnerable to the threat of a terrorist attack and do not feel adequately trained to deal with the impact of an incident – be that directly or indirectly. We heard of a number of events that needed to be cancelled in the wake of the recent London attacks, primarily those within the Westminster area in the days following the attack, but also other London events that were deemed inappropriate or inaccessible due to the incident.
So what can events professionals be doing to plan and defend themselves from the impact of a potential terror attack? We discuss a few key considerations below:
Effective planning is key
- Risk assessments and testing are key to ensure that you are aware of your vulnerabilities and can react well to an incident.
- Detailed site visits to test emergency exit and evacuation routes are recommended alongside consideration of how to raise alarms and also whether mobile devices work at the venue.
- Thinking through emergency procedures, having crucial contact numbers to hand and a planned, co-ordinated approach with the venue, organiser, suppliers and guests is key.
- Selecting a dedicated point of contact who would relay messages to facilitate a safe evacuation in the event of an incident is vital.
- For larger events, it is recommended that the planning process should also include assessment of the current political climate, previous threats, collaboration with police, emergency services and public authorities.
- Familiarise yourself with the government guidelines ‘run, hide, tell’ to ready yourself and help others in the event of an attack.
- Be wise to potential cyber risks that might leave your business open to access by unwanted parties. Check that your suppliers and venue partners also have the necessary cyber defences in place to avoid potential vulnerabilities at the site of your event.
Be sensitive when communicating with clients and guests
Brutal messaging when it comes to dealing with this subject could be off-putting to clients and guests so consider what is appropriate for your event to ensure that you are not un-nerving anyone unnecessarily. There is a fine-line here between safety and suitability that you will need to tread carefully.
Additional security measures potentially mean more budget. However if you plan effectively, ensure proportionality, integrate the necessary security into your plans and train staff as a matter of course, you can make your security provisions as cost-effective as possible.
This article is not meant to frighten you, but instead to raise a few factors and improvements that could help make your event safer and more thoroughly prepared to deal with any future incident. Planning and risk assessments are integral to ensure you, your clients and guests can be assured that they are being safeguarded in the best ways possible. Being proactive and taking control in this area is a duty of the events sector to ensure the safety of all, it is our responsibility in the fight against terrorism and the refusal to live in fear. A proportional, appropriate response for your business and type and style of event is surely the wisest approach. Stay safe everyone.