October 4, 2016
Event Organiser arranges the Security!
The current round of political party conferences has highlighted the sensitivities of striking the right balance, ensuring an event is robustly secure without overly impacting on the experience of the delegates, the surrounding communities of the town and city and getting the right event organiser can make this happen.
Earlier this year the Labour party conference held at the ACC Liverpool ran into problems when their incumbent security firm ruled out a last-minute deal to secure the conference. The only other bidder used zero hours’ contracts which Labour wants to outlaw. In the end the venue’s in-house security agency stepped in to resolve the problem.
The surprise for event industry insiders is that the problem emerged one month before the conference was scheduled to take place. Usually planning for such a large and complex event would commence up to a year in advance.
Planning is key
Back in 2005 our event organiser team manged the Sustainable Communities Summit at Manchester Central and hosted by the then deputy Prime Minister. The event was to be attended by most of the Cabinet, the mayor of London and other senior local political figures. An ‘island’ site was mandated by Greater Manchester Police and over the year preceding the event several robust table top security exercise was run to test the understanding of the many agencies involved in the event. The principal lesson we learned from this is that it takes many iterations of the security and safety plan to get all parties of the event to a level of shared understanding of who does what in the event of a threat or breach.
This week the Conservative party are in Birmingham at Symphony Hall and the ICC venues with which we are extremely familiar. Attending a function on Friday evening in Birmingham city centre we were surprised to be allowed to go through a restricted area without question simply because we were in a taxi. Somehow that didn’t quite feel right particularly in these days of heightened security threats both physical and virtual.
Security of course isn’t the preserve of large and complex events with high profile audiences. The humble delegate badge is perhaps the simplest form of security. Pinned to the lapel or with a coloured lanyard these ‘name badges’ are less about helping delegates network and more about enabling the organisers and onsite security staff to identify anyone in the event area that hasn’t got a badge and therefore probably shouldn’t be there.
Risk assessment and risk management are sub sets of the overall security plan however working closely with the venue in house stewarding and event management team is, in our experience, an essential part of ensuring that the physical event is as covertly secure as possible.