This white paper presents measures that can be used by individuals and organizations responsible for the security and management of commercial enterprise properties to secure their facilities and organizations during special events.

Securing Your Facility During Special Events

By Anthony Louis Gentile, ISS Security Services

This paper presents measures which can be used by people and organizations responsible for the security and management of commercial enterprise properties to secure their facilities and organisations during “special events”.

Table of Contents

Executive Summary

Securing facilities and corporate domiciles has become progressively more central during “special events”, and has hence created an important role for security services providers in the management of such events.

Success in securing special events arises out of careful planning, preparations, communications and training. It is, more often than not, dependent on creating temporary organizational relationships and structures when dealing with rapidly changing situations.


A key security message continuously broadcast since the 9/11 attack is that “it can happen here” and “to you”. Instantaneous news reporting of sport event riots, disasters, rock concerts, conventions, political protest demonstrations, etc. allows us to observe, how security services influence “special event” incidents. Instant news often seems to suggest that “bad stuff” does happen and the next victim could be you. It is best to learn lessons from such situations and thus be prepared to reduce our own risks by implementing effective security plans and management techniques.

One has only to encounter “searching procedures” while walking into a sports event to realize that managers in the hosting organization often understand the constant threat of security risks and therefore take action to minimize them for both, employee and visitor. It is a tribute to those event managers who consistently use their imagination, capabilities, organizational skills and resources to manage the risk inherent in their special event.

Success in securing “special events” arises out of careful planning, preparations, communications, and training; and is dependent on creating temporary organizational relationships and structures, often dealing with rapidly changing situations.

Getting it right

The purpose of this document is to suggest measures which can be used by people and organizations responsible for the security and management of commercial enterprise properties to secure their facilities and organisations during “special events”. It provides practical recommendations and considerations for both planning and meeting the unique operational needs presented by a special event, which can be readily tailored and adapted to local circumstances and resources.

The definition of a special event includes, but is not limited to: sporting events, conventions, political speeches and rallies, celebrations, peaceful protest demonstrations, etc. They are typified as drawing large and often diverse crowds over a fixed period of time. It is suggested that the information contained herein can be valuable in planning for and managing these events which can range in size from small gatherings to mega happenings; and which may take place within the boundaries of the commercial property, or at a facility adjacent to it.

Readers responsible for the security of “special events” at their commercial enterprise can consider using this document from three perspectives.

Primary Sponsor

The first vantage point is from the perspective of a commercial enterprise’s Security Director or Property Manager (hereafter referred to as “Director” or “Event Director”) who has the main responsibility for the security at an event while working for the primary sponsor – the enterprise he works for. The event takes place on the enterprise’s site using its facilities, the enterprise’s organization being fully responsible for the event and its security. It may range in size from “moderate to large” and involve a significant number (e.g. thousands) of attendees. Its physical boundaries can also be broad and encompass all kinds of facilities. If the event is perceived as presenting only a relatively low to moderate level of risk it may only require nominal security assistance from local authorities. For example in order to provide traffic control or to suppress a small number of criminal acts (alcohol related crime, fist fights, etc). Such events might include but are not limited to small stadiums, local rock concerts, neighbourhood election rallies, etc. Direct participation and a significant commitment of the enterprise’s “Director”, staff and budget are usually required. The “Director” can take advantage of the materials in this document and should pursue his security plans for the event in great detail.

Participating Partner

The second vantage point is based on the shared responsibility for security at a special event which, in accordance to its size and risk, can be described as “mega event”. In this scenario the commercial security enterprise is most likely to position itself as an active security “partner”. The special event may be co-sponsored by several organizations (government and private sector) and run on a committee basis with primary security responsibilities in the hands of elected or appointed officials and agencies (Federal, State and local). Direct participation of the commercial enterprise “Director” and possibly other staff is required. Responsibility to assure overall security of this event is shared amongst agencies and the private sector. This

event is typified as being high risk, since very large crowds of fans, attendees and/ or hostile confrontational protesting groups are expected. There can be significant site location and venue area concerns, complicated logistics; extensive emergency care and transportation requirements, many VIPs, high potential for threats, and national and or international attention can be expected, etc. Examples might include events such as: Olympics, Presidential Inauguration, Demonstrations, Super Bowl, World Soccer Championship, UN Meetings of World Leaders, Papal Visits, etc. This document can then be used to assist in understanding the overall concepts of a complex and large scale security plan. Where appropriate it can also be used to supplement the “Director’s” knowledge in dealing with leadership responsibility concerning his specific functions.

Man in the Middle

The third vantage point arises from situations where a commercial enterprise is “caught in the middle” of a special event. The “Director” is put into the position of reacting to the intentions of those around him with little or no initial voice on those plans and their impact on the commercial enterprise. The director hence becomes the proverbial “man in the middle.”

This scenario may include a special event being planned, run and sponsored by others, while located at facilities surrounding or adjacent to the commercial enterprises. The event may also affect commercial facilities that are on the parade/ access route, concerning people attending, entering or leaving, etc. The special event can range in its size and risk profile from small or moderate to a mega event (hundreds of thousands of attendees). Tasks could, for example, include securing a facility within or along routes to a local protest meeting, an NBA playoff game, a major political event such as a G8 meeting, Presidential speeches, Papal visits, etc. Depending on the individual circumstances this document provides insight into the actions and planning of other organizations. The document serves the “Director” to select the applicable measures of importance, which then can be implemented in his organization. This additional insight may also advance the director’s capability to influence the decisions made by others.

What this document is not

The document is not a policing guide for controlling near riots, acts of terrorism or the actions of a mob. However, these guidelines will assist private organizations by offering preventative measures concerning the prevention of unfortunate turns of events, as it is clearly the role of policing authorities to intervene and restore order in the case of untoward activities.

Where the information in this document comes from

The content of this document is derived primarily from the professional work of the ISS Security Division and writings of other security industry and law enforcement professionals. It is an “edited” version of these scripts and is specifically focused on private security efforts for commercial enterprises. Materials utilized include information gathered from multiple websites and publications.

In particular this paper draws heavily upon and distils the extensive, useful and very thoroughly researched materials developed by the Department of Justice in 2007. Their efforts in the COPS program were focused on developing an overall guide for policing “special events”. That information is directly and freely available on line at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, 128 pp, Guidelines for Law Enforcement. It is titled “Planning and Managing Security for Major Special Events”, Edward Connors, March 2007. Prepared for the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, D.C. The content was prepared by Edward Connors, Institute for Law and Justice, Alexandria, Virginia. For the interested reader, this document contains many references to other specialized sources of information relating to special event security which may be valuable to a particular type of venue or type of event.

Guiding Principles

  • Think and act - Ensure that timely and effective planning, communication, and training are prioritized and implemented.
  • Reach out - Understand that special event management is temporary and requires new organizational arrangements, relationships, and structures.
  • Cover the basic and extraordinary - Plan for and manage the worst-case scenarios as well as the most ordinary and mundane.
  • Stuff Happens - Anticipate unplanned changes, activities and spur of the moment gatherings.
  • Secure all perimeters - Include the inner, middle, and outer areas. These may involve specific facilities and well-defined areas within the commercial facility and as well as “unbounded” areas adjacent to it (streets, approach ramps, canals, air corridors, etc.).
  • Property, Life Safety, Economics - Recognize that security needs to be concerned with the protection of property, the safety and security of participants and also the economics of the event.
  • Leverage - Recognize the needs and benefits of leveraging your security resources and collaborating with other security organizations and other agencies (law, fire, EMS, health building codes, transportation, etc.) federal, state and local.
  • Interoperable communications - Assure that communications capabilities are interoperable within the commercial establishment and assure that your links to law enforcement and other involved agencies are effective and reliable.
  • Involve Others – include your commercial tenants in security planning efforts.
  • All Systems Go – ensure that essential services of the commercial facility can be continuously provided, regardless of the size or importance of the event.
  • Balance - Ensure that the event continues safely and at the same time respect Constitutional rights including freedom of speech and assembly.

Management Overview

Special event security planning and implementation involves three phases: pre-event planning, operational implementation and final follow up.

Pre-Event Planning:

Large scale events initial planning usually begins 12-18 months (or earlier) before the date of the event. Usually the event manager (if the event is internal to the commercial enterprise) will be in contact with local authorities to establish a collaborative link between the commercial enterprise and the governmental agency that is authorized and chartered to “run” the security mission for the event - the contact being made from either side to establish basic security and contingency plans. If the event is a major one that is external to the commercial enterprise, then typically the governmental agency would be reaching out to commercial enterprises to establish such a link. Contacts can be made through the “Director’s” office or directly to the executive management of the commercial enterprise.

This initial connection serves to clarify responsibly, financial and resource needs, identify other external organizational participants, and set the role for security. Commercial property owners or operators are well advised to participate in and plan for these activities. In complex endeavours, such as an Olympics event, a memorandum of understanding may also be generated to memorize the roles of the participants across and between governmental agencies as well as commercial enterprises.

The major functional areas usually addressed, which are of the most immediate concern to “Directors” are listed below. “Directors” should anticipate that commitments on their behalf may be required to manage the risks in those areas, including the assignment of personnel and resources to plan and implement appropriate measures. The functional topics covered are related to:

  • Protection of critical infrastructure and utilities
  • Impacts of transportation/traffic/parking measures
  • Mission Communications to their own organizations on their roles and “to do” items
  • Media relations/PR in light of the special event
  • Potential impacts on personnel and staffing, and access to facilities
  • Identification of legal issues and measures to address them
  • Fire/EMS/hospital services
  • Development of an overall security plan and actual alignment and participation of security operations/venue security personnel
  • Training and Budget
  • Logistics
  • Gathering of security /threat and status reports and information prior to and during the event
  • Proper identification of people and organizations which are to access the commercial facility during the event (credentialing)

Authorities will also be concerned with the above topics, and additionally with resources and subjects such as: Interagency/technical communications, Emergency evacuation, HAZMAT/WMD, Consequence management, Tactical support/crisis management, Prisoner processing, Intelligence, After-action evaluations, Airspace security, and a host of other matters.

Groups or individuals assigned to plan and deal with functional issues should strive to identify a security plan for their functional responsibility. That plan should identify the personnel, equipment, and other resources which are needed, (net of what is on hand) with recommendations for their acquisition, and an indication of the funding required. The “Director” and where appropriate a steering committee should review the plans and approve or request changes as needed. As it often takes months to order, receive and install some equipment this process should be expedited.

The level of commercial owner commitment for “special events” is most often related to the anticipated levels of risk and or benefit resulting from their involvement. The scope, notoriety and importance of the event, its size, purpose, location and commercial interests involved, etc. - all comes into play. It is apparent that more effort will typically be devoted to large higher benefit and risk/higher impact events. Regardless of those interests, the fact remains, that most of the previously mentioned functions must be thoughtfully considered at some point during the planning process.

During this planning process commercial owner/operators should take care to coordinate their planning efforts internally within their organization and with the event authorities. This often involves the creation of temporary internal organizations and steering committees to guide those efforts. These measures can go a long way to assure that plans are realistic and stay in tune with the dynamics of changes likely to occur while preparing for a special event.

Once the planning for the major functions and topics is complete and internally addressed by the commercial owner/operator the logistical processes to acquire and implement them are set in motion. Training and PR efforts are implemented and communications broadcasted via appropriate mediums. The creation of event handbooks for use as a guide for security personnel with regard to FAQ’s and security information has been found to be very helpful. Similar publications can be created and released to commercial property tenants, visitors, contractors, and suppliers as a way of keeping them informed of events and procedures. As related in the DOJ publication, experience has proven that a management feedback loop is essential to assure that activities and training are effective. It serves to validate progress with regards to the initial plans. “Trust but Verify” is a critical component. At this point, it is crucial to assure internal management coordination on an ongoing basis and to share information as appropriate with the authorities. Finally the dates for the special event/s arrive.

Security Management during an Event:

This phase begins just before everyone begins to assemble at the event site and includes checks on the functional operational status of the tools, services, people and processes involved including but not limited to:

  • Staffing - checking on the placement, presence, readiness of security staffs, their supervisors, and other support areas.
  • Communications, monitoring, and reporting – radio and network checks and cross links to law enforcement and other involved agencies.
  • Command center – checking on the ready state of the centre technology, staffing, reporting the status of events and incidents etc.
  • Access control posts – assuring that posts are in place and properly manned.
  • Credentialing – scanning and reviewing lists of persons banned, those with high access privileges etc.
  • Physical facilities – verifying that all materials, systems and physical barriers are in place and in operational mode.

As the event progresses it is vital that the command centre be kept periodically informed of the status of the ongoing event. All information sent and gathered by the central command centre should be validated as quickly as possible. Key decision makers should be available within the command centre for the duration of the event. Intelligence about disruptive situations requires immediate communications with internal security staff and the command centre. If it appears that matters are escalating beyond minor disagreements and the ability of internal staff to defuse them supervisory assistance, and where necessary police support, should immediately be sought.

During the event provisions for the care of “lost parents” and A&E treatment are implemented. Fire and EMS services will establish their own aid stations and procedures and it is advisable to assure that two way communications between the command centre, the EMS and fire units can accomplished. Where small children are likely to be present attendance procedures should be available and implemented to assist with the careful handling of lost children, to assure a safe return to their parents.

At the planned termination of the event, staffing must be prepared to deal with large numbers of persons exiting the event area on a simultaneous basis. If the event is one-housed and/or sponsored by the commercial owner or operator they usually are responsible for providing assistance with traffic and the movement of people and vehicles out of the area in an orderly and timely manner. Though not its primary function, security operations are often involved in tasks ranging from simply assuring that parking lot attendants are directing traffic properly to more elaborate and intricate security assignments involving scheduled travel by large vehicles such as trains, subways, buses, watercraft, etc. A contingency plan should also be available should the need for a sudden mass evacuation of the event area prior to the normal termination of the event arise, in response to a threat, an incident, severe weather, etc...

Post-Event Activities – Were Goals and Objectives Met?

A review of the security successes and areas needing improvement concerning the event should be conducted and suggestions for improvements in addressing any future events identified. An account for all equipment and other resources used should be established, and invoices for purchased services and equipment processed. Staff should be given feedback on their performance and lessons learned written down in a report for future reference.

The ISS Group was founded in Copenhagen in 1901 as Copenhagen Night Watch and has since grown to become the world’s leading Facility Services company. Our strong security background has provided both the experience and skills necessary to lead the industry and drive innovation especially within management and integration practices.

More than a century in the service industry has taught us that long-term business success is closely linked to the concept of sustainable development. By setting industry leading social, environmental and ethical standards we show that our customers and employees can depend on us.


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