Last month Tourism Tidbits focused on some of the key security planning stages for festivals and events. This month Tourism Tidbits provides more insights into event and festival security by featuring some of the principle ideas of Greg Mullen, police chief of Charleston, South Carolina, a major event/festival city. During the Spring, Summer and Fall seasons, Charleston is filled with festivals and events; it is the task of the Charleston police department to make sure that they events are safe and secure.
1) See your event as part of the local hospitality industry. Mullen notes the importance of taking event security seriously. He notes that he hospitality industry is growing; number one economic driver in many areas. A basic principle comes from Peter Tarlow’s book, “Event Risk Management and Safety,” (Wiley) that when risk is not taken seriously, specific event is disrupted and collateral damage occurs to host location. (Tarlow, Pg. 2). Mullen stresses to his police officers that events function as a form of tourism and suffer from the same sociological issues as tourism. Thus when events suffer from a negative occurrence this may turn into negative publicity impacting the entire hospitality industry. As in all forms of risk management then, it is more cost effective to deal with the risk than it is to deal with the damage once it has occurred.
2) Do not measure your success by the number of traffic tickets you give out or the number of arrests. Instead measure your success by how well you mitigated risk, how safe your public felt at the event, the number of crimes that were prevented and the desire of the public to return because the event “felt” safe and secure. Critical areas of event risk include: health and safety issues (especially if food items are being sold), crowd management, alcohol sales and consumption, traffic management, including coming to the festival, parking and leaving the festival, and personal security should fights break out, a robbery occur, or even a mass killing.
3) Review all critical factors well in advance of the event. Among these are: What is the sponsoring organization’s purpose and experience in running an event. Is this event to promote a specific cultural, political, or social agendum? What is the event’s history? What has gone wrong in the past? How happy or unhappy is the local community with the event. If the event is to take place in on a residential street then the problems may be quite different from the same event being held in an open field. How can weather impact the event? Think beyond rain. For example, if this is a summer outdoor event, will people suffer from sunstroke? How will they get water and how many rest rooms will the event provide?
4) Distinguish between different types of risk. Not all risk is the same. Physical risks refer to things that can happen to the person or the place. These are tangible risks and their consequences can be measured. “Reputational risk” refers to the cost to a community’s reputation when something goes wrong. Most people protest that the media are not fair and tend to emphasize points taken out of context. In many cases that is true, but places that depend on tourism need to have a plan to deal with the media. Another form of risk is the emotional cost to personnel and locals when something goes wrong. Emotional risk means that an event has to have the back-up personnel in place so that first responders are in good shape to do their job and without worry. Final there is the fiscal risk to any event. If people do not show up, if there is a weather disaster, event planners need to ask themselves can they recover from a sever financial loss.
5) Determine what are acceptable risk levels for your event. Try to develop methods by which you can diminish risk by spreading the risk across the event rather than concentrating it in one location. You can also diminish risk by sharing responsibility with allied agencies, participating in joint training exercises and during the event continuously monitoring for unexpected or unplanned for changes. Not only do you want to seek ways to reduce risk but also there may be times when it is wise to cancel an event due to unforeseen risks. In such cases, not doing anything may result in a major risk.
6) Never hold an event without a good organizational (incident command) structure. Often failures occur due to poor communication between parts of the event. It is essential that prior to holding an event that all stake holders use the same vocabulary and understand each other, have a system to communicate, and practice coordination. Good incident command structures not only lessen risk but should an incident occur they are essential in protecting life and property.
7) Evaluate, evaluate, evaluate! A major error in event and festival event risk management is to fail to evaluate the event or festival after it is completed. Be sure to conduct a through after-action review. Include in this review both positive and negative outcomes, what went right, what did not happened due to luck and what mistakes were made. List areas for improvement. Never be defensive in your review, instead analyze your plans and document both positive and negative tactics in a written report. This report should be written within 30 days of the event so that memory loss and idealization do not occur.
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