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Plan for security at your event

When your organization is planning an event, you may become focused on logistics such as food, parking, activities and sound systems. But don’t forget about arranging for security so you can keep staff members, volunteers and guests safe, and so you can minimize property damage during the event.

The question, of course, is how much security do you need for your event? There are a number of factors that may contribute to this:

  1. Number of guests – If there will only be 50 or fewer people at your event, you may not have a need for security guards. On the other hand, if you will be hosting thousands of people, you will need to pay significant attention to both guards and access points.

  2. Whether alcohol will be served – The presence of alcohol significantly increases your likelihood for an incident that requires security.

  3. Type of event – A family-friendly event is less likely to require major security than an adult-oriented happening.

  4. Venue – If you are using a large venue for your event, there may already be existing security measures in place. You will want to communicate with your vendors to make sure you are not doubling up on security.

After determining the appropriate number of security staff needed for your event you must decide what type of security is necessary, whether they’re internal or external staff, and the possible liabilities involved. Consider the following:

  1. Unarmed Security – This involves organizing volunteers and/or employees and asking them to watch for suspicious behavior, de-escalate non-violent incidents, and alert those gathered at the event to any potential danger. This type of team can be effective in protecting your people while minimizing risk and liability exposure.

  2. Armed Security– If you feel armed security is necessary for your event there are a few options to consider. First, you can hire armed security from an outside source such as active-duty local law enforcement or a private security contractor. These types of security personnel bring experience, training, and will often assume liability for their actions (it’s important to verify this!). You can also establish a volunteer/employee security team, however this typically results in the greatest exposure to risk and requires a significant amount of planning and training.

  3. Training – No matter what type of security you decide to go with it’s important to ensure they are properly trained. Any outside security should be vetted to verify that training standards comply with applicable laws in the area, and any volunteer team should complete a training program designated by the organization. This is even more important if guards will be armed, and it is recommended to work with your legal counsel to ensure all laws are being followed and you’re not being exposed to unnecessary liability.

Once you decide what your security will look like for the event, here are some essential tips to keep in mind as you prepare:

  1. Have a communication system. Make sure security staff can easily communicate with each other and with others at the event. You may want to consider conducting a drill before the event to make sure everyone knows what they are doing. Use “plain speak” instead of codes to communicate for clarity and to ensure correct actions are taken.

  2. Control access points. When you have a limited number of access points to your event, it is easier to keep track of who is coming in and out. It is also easier for your security guards to scan for threats.

  3. Be aware of potential threats. Take all threats seriously. Be observant of vandalism and loitering that may indicate the presence of a greater threat. Regularly view and review social media related to your organization and the event. Be aware of issues both inside and outside the organization that may lead to threats, such as domestic issues with members or employees, disgruntled employees or community unrest.

A large part of a good security system for an event is advance planning, including conducting a security assessment. Take the time with your team to talk through possible scenarios and threats, and empower your staff and volunteers to keep their eyes open to any issues.

View a video on the 10 Essentials of Security at