19 December 2017

Overcoming Safety Challenges in the Current Threat Environment

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In response to a heightened safety and security threat environment, venue security and procedures also need to be heightened while still balanced with ensuring an optimal customer experience – increased collaboration between all stakeholders, plus the target hardening of venues themselves, has never been more urgent.

In this article, I share details of comprehensive risk management strategies employed to overcome safety challenges at some of Australia’s biggest and most high profile events, with a specific look into recent major events.
Minimising Risk
Overcoming Challenges with Comprehensive Risk Planning
“The biggest challenge with an event like Vivid or New Year’s Eve is of course that they’re open, free access events. Looking after the safety and security of over a million people on New Year’s Eve on the one night, and 2.3 million people over the 23 days that is Sydney’s Vivid Festival (an annual festival spanning multiple locations across Sydney from the Royal Botanic Gardens to Darling Harbour, Circular Quay, Chatswood and Taronga Zoo) with no screening and multiple entry points is a huge challenge.
Recent terror attacks across the UK and Europe and the recent thwarted planned attack on Melbourne NYE highlights the need to target harden a number of key locations in all major events and crowded places moving forward.
It is important to work closely with your jurisdictional Police Force, to target harden identified vulnerable locations and work in collaboration with them to monitor the outer perimeter for early risk detection – things like hostile vehicles, unauthorised people in designated event areas, that sort of thing.
With an event like New Year’s Eve or Vivid which not only are open and free access, but span a number of different locations it’s of the utmost importance to develop a consistent strategic management plan across all precincts that brings together everyone involved within the operation, from transport, police, ambulance, port authorities, fire brigades and of course owners and operators, to ensure that everyone is collaborating to mitigate risks through application of appropriate controls measures. The sharing of timely information and Intelligence is crucial.
With major events like Vivid and New Year there a many risk categories, such as patron safety at the water’s edge, crowd crush, general crime and of course terrorism risk that need to be addressed and therefore working closely with law enforcement agencies and intelligence agencies is important to receive and communicate timely and early intelligence.
Prevention Strategies
Developing a Risk Management Plan
“For events like Vivid and New Year’s Eve ir for events in Stadia, which the government declares a hallmark event (major tourist event), there is an integrated Strategic Command Post within the risk management plan, located at the Police Operations Centre or Government Coordination Centre.
With a large-scale event there is a large deployment of security personnel on the ground and an integrated approach by all agencies under an Event Operations Centre and a Transport Management Centre to work seamlessly together to ensure all identified security risks across the entire transport network, from buses to trains and ferries, are managed effectively.
Underpinning all the management centres is a Crowd Control Strategy which outlines a number of crowd control actions as part of the risk management methodology to make sure the ingress, circulation and egress of patrons across the event footprint is safely managed.
Strategies deployed at major events include fencing at major intersections, barriers, way finders and VMS signs. These methods coupled with a strong communication strategy utilising traditional media, electronic media - social, all contributes to providing people clear direction on how to travel to various event sites, what to expect, which way to walk etc.
Risk-free Culture
Balancing Safety and Experience
“With the current global environment, it’s important to take a ‘worst case scenario’ point-of-view when developing a plan to overcome safety challenges at any public event, but especially in an open access environment.
With the implementation of command posts, crowd control strategies and event operations centres, Security on the ground, it is important to have an effective communications strategy and coordination structure in place to achieve a really comprehensive strategy that accounts for all possible scenarios.
Pre-major events it is extremely worthwhile to conduct tabletop exercises with all operations centres and security staff across the event footprint, where we can scenario test worst case scenarios – so a drill essentially – for various kinds of disasters from weather events to explosions, terror attacks or threats from active armed offenders. Training and continual testing of staff and procedures is critical to respond to any incident or emergency.
Every risk event comes with its own contingency plan where you can escalate up resources if necessary, and these scenario exercises really allow to test emergency response, command and control posts, and communication operations – the drills are essential in allowing all facets of the operation to come together and really understand the environment, the various threats, risks involved and the best solutions.
The latest technology such as CCTV sectoring, video analytics, artificial Intelligence should all be considerations of a suite of mitigation strategies.
In an open access environment, it’s impossible to screen everybody, but having comprehensive security plans and thorough strategies in place helps make these types of event safer. Open communication to patrons highlighting that while certain restrictions on which way people can walk, or where they can go may be a slight inconvenience, at the end of the day we all need to understand that in a PROBABLE threat environment all security measures are in place for the benefit of everyone.
Guest blog written by: Craig Sheridan APM, Managing Director, Sheridan Consulting Group

Craig has been appointed to a number of notable positions since retiring from the NSW Police Force including Lead Security and Risk Consultant, Vivid Festival Sydney 2016 and 2017, Lead Security and Risk Consultant for Property NSW, introducing an operational readiness framework for New Years Eve 2016 and other major events held across the Sydney Harbour Foreshore,  Lead Security and Risk Consultant, Department of Premier and Cabinet, New Years Eve 2016 and Australia Day 2017 Crowd Management as well as Head of Security, Rugby League World Cup 2017.

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