One of the most underutilized tools of any event is its security. Event managers often do the majority of the tasks that a security team will also undertake: maintaining order, ensuring alcohol compliance, responding to medical emergencies. Yet when it comes to security, many times it can be low on the priority list. It’s never a problem until it’s a problem, but unlike many things that we are able to deal with on the fly, a security issue can leave your event, venue, and client exposed to tremendous liability. I would like to offer a few tips on how to best apply your security staff to your event.
Planning events with large drinking crowds requires you to staff up on event coordinators, facilities, bar/service staff, and volunteers. Security falls on the bottom of this list because it’s an overhead for which you normally won’t receive a return on investment, so we need to maximize what we can get out of security while maintaining a safe environment. You need to ask yourself what image you are trying to project.
Personnel in suits work best for indoor events such as weddings, holiday parties, and galas. Make sure radios and/or earpieces are visible. This is a subtle yet obvious sign there is security present and makes for a great visual deterrent to disorderly drinking. Neutral-colored polos and pants/shorts that are embroidered with “security” on them work best for security staff at outdoor events such as music festivals and block parties.
At large events, it’s important security staff are visible and easy to locate. Ensuring your security people say “hello” and smile is an easy way to start the guest experience on a positive note as they enter an event. After your image is set you can place your security people throughout your event. They can act as your eyes and ears, and sometimes even as a concierge. Always make sure you have a designated lead for your security team. Brief your lead person before the event and have them assign the rest of the team to your doors and high value areas, such as backstage and VIP sections.
Knowing your crowd is the only way to control them. If you are short-staffed, place your security accordingly to manage the specific type of crowd you are working with. If you have VIP clients, you can move staff from low priority positions to cover this. At a block party you may have to pull your roaming security to check IDs to get your guests in before they start getting restless. Just like any event, the plan is ever-changing. Know your maximum capacity and make sure your security people are using handheld counters to keep track during big events. Not only can the fire marshal shut you down and fine you, but you are also opening yourself up to massive liability.
Alcohol compliance falls under two categories: preventing intoxication and averting unauthorized drinkers. Preventing intoxication requires bar staff and security personnel working together to keep a watchful eye on those who overindulge.
Entrance/exit and perimeter security people can watch for inebriation as it happens in real time, while bartenders can only gauge it when a guest comes up to the bar. By using your radios and your roaming security supervisor, you can keep in contact with the bar and vice versa. Unauthorized drinkers are typically thought of as minors under the age of 21. However, some identifications and drivers’ licenses have alcohol restrictions on the back of them that prevent a person from consuming alcohol. Serving someone with a restriction like this could be a liability. Serving a minor is the easiest way to get your liquor license revoked, not to mention a large fine.
You can use your perimeter and roaming security people to see who looks like they are under 21 or hasn’t yet been identified as 21 or over. Most underage drinkers will have very obvious body language like looking around and staying toward the center in groups of their friends. When in doubt, just approach professionally and ask for their ID. If they don’t have one or aren’t 21, the security staff can follow your event policies and state regulations on underage drinking.
Using your security staff efficiently allows an event manager to be in multiple places at once. When deployed correctly, they are another set of eyes and ears and can help you focus on the big picture of the event. It covers you and your client from a liability standpoint and ensures you have a successful event overall.
About the Author
David Anderson is an event manager at the Machine Shop. Previously he worked in private security for more than nine years. He has assisted in coordinating security for many large events, including Red Bull Crashed Ice, Rock the Garden, and Summer Set Music Festival. He earned a degree in law enforcement after completing four years of active duty in the U.S. Navy.
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