Planning a safe event has always been part of the event industry, and it continues to get new meanings as years go by. Event safety, in a traditional sense, meant safe rigging and production practices, but today, it also includes public health concerns, data privacy, and using event technology to mitigate any event risks.
Regardless of the scale of your event, planning a safe event needs to be your priority. In this blog post, you’ll find the following information:
- a review of event safety basics,
- insights into more sophisticated event safety measures,
- best practices for implementing cybersecurity.
Planning a safe event is a group effort, so make sure that all your vendors and partners are on board with your safety plans and know how to act if a crisis strikes.
The Basics of Planning a Safe Event
Let’s start at the beginning and take a look at some standard considerations for safety and security for event organizers.
1. Have a Risk Management Plan in Place for Each Event
There is always a chance of a crisis striking at our events, even if we pay close attention during the entire event planning process. Event staff should know precisely how to act in an unpredictable situation, and that’s why we need a risk management plan. Risk assessment plans have three main parts:
- Hazard identification: Recognize any hazards associated with your event. To identify those risks, consider the different people involved and their roles in the setup. Aside from human-related hazards, you should also recognize technological, natural, contractual, and environmental hazards.
- Risk assessment: Use a risk assessment matrix to estimate the potential impact of a hazard to assess the level of risk. Once you have done this, you can prioritize the most significant risks.
- Risk control: With the help of the event team, develop reasonable solutions, starting with high-level risks. Those may include the elimination of hazards, substitution, engineering, administrative, and use of appropriate safety gear. Above all, you should look for solutions that are logical and practical.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that we can never be too prepared for an unpredictable change of plans. While event planners have mastered the art of preparing for bad weather and contractual mishaps, they did not anticipate a global health crisis. Since 2020, the risk management plan should therefore also include a plan for a last-minute pivot to a hybrid or virtual event model.
2. Staff Your Event with Qualified Security Personnel
You should staff your event with security personnel that is qualified and has sufficient experience providing security for events. If you host mega-events, ensure the security company of your choice has proven experience in handling events of that scale. They need to know the strategies, evacuation procedures, and communication methods that come from overseeing such a large volume of people. But skill and experience are not enough; they also need the right attitude.
Security should form a visible presence. This isn’t just to deter any unruly behavior around them, but also to reassure attendees that they are safe. Security can also help attendees answer questions about the event – anything from asking for bathroom locations to following their directions in the case of a security breach or evacuation.
If you’re hosting a larger event, in addition to a security team, you will also need an emergency medical crew. They will be there for the first response and for liaising with additional paramedics when they arrive on the scene if needed.
3. Reduced Crowd Density Means Lower Security Risk
When you’re planning a safe event, you probably think in terms of how many people you can comfortably fit in the venue. In terms of security, it’s even better to opt for expanded event parameters.
Security issues tend to occur in densely populated and concentrated areas. Not only that, when it comes to heavy-hitting issues like mass shootings or terrorism, it’s been found that even the fear of terrorist activity can lead to crowd disasters. Spreading out the audience and having additional event security to cover the larger area can reduce some of that risk.
Additionally, social distancing is the hallmark of COVID-compliant events. Ensure that the attendees have enough room to socially distance themselves if they so wish.
4. Focus on Lighting for Event Safety & Security
Planning a safe event requires lighting that:
- defines the space’s parameters and boundary,
- provides adequate overall brightness,
- has walkways and facilities that are well-lit so they are safely walkable,
- provides well-lit and signed exits,
- has emergency lighting on standby,
- provides proper visibility for the set-up and dismantling of event equipment.
It’s vital to engage AV professionals to arrange adequate lighting for your event. Suitable lighting prevents safety hazards and helps with security monitoring. It also aids in faster response by security and medical teams in the event of an incident and facilitates safe evacuations, if it happens.
5. Ensure Event Setup is Resistant to the Elements
Event experts thrive in an unusual environment that requires both careful planning, but also the ability to adapt to changes at the drop of a hat. As we all know, sudden severe weather can disrupt even the best-laid plans.
This is particularly true for outdoor events. High winds and lightning are two of the most common weather conditions to cause safety hazards at events. Temporary structures like outdoor stages as well as the necessary rigging for AV equipment are usually in the firing line for extreme weather. If not adequately secured, their size and weight become a scary hazard. The implications are huge – financially, but more importantly, with regards to the safety of the event team, contractors, and attendees.
You must use the right vendors when planning a safe event so that you know the equipment, but also the setup is up to scratch. Excellent communication comes into play here too. Don’t leave anything to chance. Decide who and how communication will take place if weather concerns do arise on the big day.
Adopt More Sophisticated Safety & Security Measures
The basics of planning a safe event are important. But there are many more steps you can take to ensure your safety and security measures are the best they can be.
1. Improve Coordination with Experts
As an event planner, you can better gauge what safety measures your event needs by turning to the experts in the field. There’s nothing worse than realizing after an incident has occurred that you could have taken further steps to prevent or mitigate the impact. Due diligence for the safety of your attendees is the highest priority when organizing an event. But hiring experts is the way to know you’ve done everything you can.
Firstly, consider local law enforcement. Even if you’re hiring security staff specifically for your event, think about whether your event would benefit from a police presence or having them on standby. Determine how you will be communicating with them on the day. Make sure all event staff, including the security team, are aware of this as well so that you can all follow the same procedure. A more cohesive approach will mean a faster response to any security concerns.
Secondly, consider hiring an event meteorologist to consult on your event. Meteorologists have access to specialized software and precision instruments that allow them to provide timely information to you 24/7. Did you know that these experts will predict the weather not just for the city you’re in, but for the exact GPS location of your event?
Finally, consider working with an event management company that will take most of the mentioned safety concerns off your plate. They can be your go-to partner for event production, COVID compliance, event technology support, communication with vendors, and other security aspects of event management.
2. Ensure Your Vendors are Putting Safety & Security First
When planning a safe event, it’s important to be as thorough as possible. Ask your vendors the hard questions and make sure their products and practices are safety-compliant too. Ensure you:
- obtain all relevant documentation like insurance certificates from your vendors. Contractors must also be willing to add your event to their Certificate of Insurance.
- get only professionally certified, engineered products from your vendors.
- use staging vendors who already have high-wind action plans, evacuation plans, and fire safety plans.
- hire vendors who ask lots of questions. When potential contractors ask well-considered questions about covering your event and then provide a pre-approved plan to accomplish what you need, it helps to know you’re dealing with professionals.
- ensure all staff and contractors are trained for emergencies beyond medical emergencies, minor assaults, and lost children. Event professionals also need to know how to respond to active shooters, bomb threats, and terrorist attacks.
If contractors aren’t willing to comply, consider it a red flag. Either keep asking to get what you need, or look for more professional vendors.
3. Use Sophisticated Event Technology for Crowdshaping
New technology doesn’t just have a use for its entertainment value, but in planning a safe event too. In-app crowd trackers can help to pinpoint areas that are getting overcrowded, so you can take steps to disperse the crowd, or direct more security staff to that area. Logistics monitoring helps to ensure that attendees are being transported to and from your event safely. Use data to prompt the delivery of additional services and to make sure attendees aren’t waiting too long for their ride to arrive.
Another technology that has great potential for improving and managing safety at events is heat mapping to monitor foot traffic. This is useful for preventing overcrowding on escalators, for example. But it’s also a great way to open up new traffic routes – whether that be doors or changing the flow of escalators. For instance, noticing a sudden surge of a crowd towards the exit could be a sign of a security breach. You could quickly change the escalator flow to relieve bottlenecks and ensure attendees get to the exit safely and efficiently.
Planning a Safe Event: Cybersecurity Measures
Safety and security don’t just come down to what’s physically happening at your event. It’s also about looking after any data that relates to the event and event-goers. Like everyone else who collects data on their customers, you must adhere to GDPR and other data protection acts. This applies to all types of information, from names and addresses of event attendees, right through to any data you collected through more sophisticated tech, like attendance trackers.
According to the 2022 Cyber Threat Report, most industries saw a huge surge in ransomware attacks in 2021. For example, governments saw a whopping 1,1885% increase. The events industry is no stranger to data breaches, either. One of the most famous data breaches in the hospitality and events industry is the infamous Marriot case in 2020 where over 5 million guest records were stolen. Event planners sit on a goldmine of valuable event data, so it’s more crucial than ever to pay careful attention to cybersecurity when planning safe events.
1. Include Data Management in Event Plans
With so many data collection tools available, it’s no wonder we’re collecting ever-increasing amounts of data. But, that also means it’s becoming more complicated to manage and consolidate it. Event plans should include how you will be collecting data, formatting, storing, and sharing it. It starts from the marketing of the event, through and beyond the event lifecycle.
2. Encryption on Event Wi-Fi
Wi-Fi on an open network that doesn’t have encryption leaves you wide open for security breaches. That’s because others can access records of whatever is done or accessed. Even a very simple Wi-Fi password is a step in the right direction for preventing hacks and keeping your event safe.
3. Use Tech Solutions to Ensure Proper Data Management
Gone are the days when Excel spreadsheets or notebooks were acceptable for recording and managing event data. The ever-increasing need for security means that you should turn to tech solutions designed for managing data.
For example, there needs to be wider adoption of Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) on event websites. An SSL encrypts the links between a web server and browser, meaning the data transmitted between the two remains encrypted.
Mobile event apps are a fantastic tool for collecting event data, but before you start using one, you need to ensure the technology provider has adequate security measures in place. Among other things, you must make sure they don’t have a right to use your data. Find out who in their company has access to your data and their authorization process for giving access. For a deeper insight, check out our podcast episode on event app security.
4. Focus on Purging Event Data
Event planners can be tempted to archive and store all event data collected, thinking it might eventually be useful. However, from a security perspective, it’s important to purge data after each event you organize. You see, additional risks come from hoarding data. The more data you have, the more can be stolen during a hack. And that results in a higher cost to you if a data breach does occur.
You only need to keep the data that will be useful for forecasting and gives you a competitive advantage. If you’re not sure what that is, it’s worth taking some time to put a plan in place and jump on board the trend for data minimization as a security tool.
Remember, after every event, to review any safety or security issues that arose, or you noticed that could have occurred. How did security and your event team respond? Is there something different your team can do next time? Learning and improving are critical for effectively planning a safe event every time.
Planning a Safe Event: Conclusive Thoughts
Planning a safe event is by no means an easy task as it concerns nearly every aspect of the event: AV, technology, production, Wi-Fi, venues, staff, weather, and more. And as the industry shifted towards virtual events and hybrid events, safety and security concerns have acquired a whole new meaning.
The best way to ensure our events will be safe is to work with vendors and event partners who are as dedicated to security and safety as event planners themselves. Endless Events is a full-service event management company that considers the privacy and security of attendee and client data a top priority. We have vast experience with planning safe events in terms of event AV and production, event technology, data management, and cybersecurity. So, if you’d like your next event to be as safe as possible, reach out to us. We are here to help.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in June 2018 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.