Security as part of Emergency and Disaster Management – Planning an Event

28 Jun

This is just an introduction to some of the in-depth aspects that need work when dealing with events. Many veterans in the event management industry have now realized and will agree, that with events we need plans tailor-made, templates just don’t cut it.

Next, how we focus, will determine where we will focus. Focus is the main issue here, and it should be on good and proper planning. Planning alone is one step in the right direction if done right, the next is the handling (management and co-ordination) of events, our plans should not become the catalyst for disaster itself, and neither should our ultra-ego influence our management styles and practices.

The fact of the matter is. You get plans, and then you get plans; I have seen some “plans” and PLANS in my life time, most was just a pure thumb suck exercise, not even worth looking at, a complete waste of paper and time. Some have only submitted a one pager for an event that will be hosting/ catering for as many as 30 000 people.

Furthermore; this just shows how people are chosen willy-nilly to perform tasks that they have no business performing. We need the right people for this job. Very few business men can themselves plan, let alone plan strategic, and have the skills, knowhow and ability to deliver workable and solid safety and security plans. This role is best suited for Military, Police, Disaster Management and Security personnel. Apart from the obvious event planning, and all the detail, the bells and whistles, the scope and focus should include a platform from which to operate. Then this highlights the importance of security at events, especially in today’s day and age where; terrorism, vandalism, crime, and criminals are fast on the increase. Then it goes without saying, we also require a much greater emphasis on proper safety and security, right from the word go, any planning should be done in tandem with a security oversight, it’s of paramount importance.

First off, we need to understand what we will be working with before we discuss how.

There is split between safety and security; and this split runs very deep, it runs deeper that what we think;

  1. Safety implies; a perception or an instance or prevalence of a reasonable fear, that could also imply danger. In simple terms, how we think about; things, people, places and stuff, will affect our level of awareness and judgment about our safety and that of others. Then how and if we react, will be reflected by any measures we put in place or fail to (that are, should be) put in place to make something safe, or safer. That could or would without this intervention cause potential harm, or even death. Intervention, or mitigation, is a process that protects us from most known types or consequences of failure, damage, error, accidents, harm or any other event, or instance that would otherwise be considered non-desirable. Safe is how we feel about something, until we become aware of danger, either real or perceived and then react… or not.
  2. Security implies; a/any form of protection; either physical, perceived, legislated, economic, electronic, contractual, law, social structures, religion, belief and processes. Anything that we trust, that could, should, would, or will provide relief, protection or improve a condition we fear, with the introduction of security to provide for us a safer situation, we have subsequently been developing many condition of safety, some very real, some not so real, and some only perceived have come about as a result of this human fear. We find security in the fact that…we have locked a door, activated an alarm, etc… this is no fail safe, but it’s better than having done nothing…

These very same principles apply in event management. This is why these two words are used together. SAFETY AND SECURITY: the first relates to any measure, or interventions we decide on, the second are how they manifest themselves. So you feel safe because you have made something happen -secure

Who are the people responsible for doing this at events?

Well, in most instances they refer to themselves as the security cluster. The security cluster; traditionally comprise of the people that will be doing the security planning; comprising of mainly but not exclusively the POLICE, Traffic Department, Metro Police, Security Company, cash in transit, etc.. However, it also includes, the Fire Department, Ambulance, First aid, Fire Codes inspectors, Health inspector, Building, Structural engineers, Electricians, Water Quality, etc… Mainly, it all depends on the nature of the event, the size, and requirements. The point is, to have the major role players, and then to open up as we find specialists input and expertise essential towards having a proper tight plan.

For its these people – the security cluster – above anyone else that will in most cases be the first to report, react, respond, and inform; on any potential hazard, incident as well as accident, pre- during and post event, at any event.

Therefore, we can no longer afford any ill or poor perception about security and security personnel and their role and function at events. Professionalism, does not require a degree, it’s a trained response. Only Proper training should and could address this type of required change, and we need it drastically. Mainly because the facts speak for themselves, their (our securities) burden and duty transcends the mere obvious performance of guarding and patrolling as primary security duties. We need to look into their secondary functions. It needs to become a mindset, and the place where it all starts is with creating this required focus, and awareness. By creating awareness of the role and function of event security, it has to become a totally different breed of security, by anyone’s standards. They have to become specialists…

Event security specialist;

Should look like this;

  1. Have their basic training
  2. Have special training in crowd control and management
  3. Access control
  4. First aid

This might seem pretty basic, and some would even say we have been having it, well; the point is it needs to be done. You can’t use normal security guards all over.

We need to divide the security into;

  1. Car guards – will be dealing with allocating parking and traffic control
  2. Patrollers/ marshals – assisting people to entrance points, busses, trains as well as handicapped people and the elderly.
  3. Security Guards – guarding property and patrolling
  4. Events Guards – ushering, access control, and crowd control

Now onto the how to do it

When we start thinking of forming a security plan, then we firstly need to do a risk assessment for ourselves first. This risk assessment will look at amongst other things;

  1. The suitability of the terrain, hazards, potential hazards, infrastructure shortfalls, repair and maintenance issues.
  2. Capacity; crowd, parking, and general suitability…
  3. Restrictions; time, noise, fireworks, no fly zones, etc.
  4. History of the venue; transport problems, crowd problems, anything worth having mentioned.
  5. Amount of manpower that will be required, as well as additional fencing, barriers, etc… financial impact – sometimes the venues come dirt cheap – but have nothing to offer in return, then up grading it becomes unviable. It is the security contractor’s duty to give up front quotations of how much it could cost if we have to do A< B< and C…

Only by having all these, the essential elements of information on hand when we start, are we off to a good start. Start, with the identification of risk; by doing a thorough risk assessment, which forces us to seek out mitigation options immediately once we see the risk. Thus creating a total realization of risk, and their perspective mitigation requirement, and most importantly at this stage the costs involved in getting it right, thus giving us factual elements with which to plan and work with.

Information gathering and dissemination, In-depth strategic Preparation, and Planning becomes the trio; that has also become the key to having stable, successful and peaceful events. Each event takes on its own character, with countless outgoing aspects that would be specific only at that date and time, and for that type of event. That won’t be applicable at any date, time or place in the future ever again. The job of the planning committee or security cluster is to foresee, plan and mitigate; as best they can. Then to practice, train, and prepare all they can. However most aspects are generic and I will zoom in on these for now;

The best place to start is by looking at the physical attributes first; the terrain layout; we require a terrain layout plan from the organizers for this, in detail, with possible measurements, preferable to scale, to see what will go where, how, and by how much. So that we can match it up with their entrance and exit planning as well as their program. Food distribution, artist, liquor, bands, etc… each aspect has its own challenges, attributes and aspects unique that would require in-depth evaluation. We have to see what we can minimize on, in order to reduce our risk of hazards, then strengthening our weak points, and enforcing our strong, and then only do we tackle possible crime scenarios?

This works from the middle out;

  1. Each event has a center point with a first perimeter, then a second some may even have a third and so on. Consequently, we enforce, and evaluate how best we can protect perimeters, and by what means. From the center outwards. Security works best when done in layers and then in overlapping sectors. See where people can climb over, under, through, walls, fences, water ducts, tunnels, etc… Then decide if this could become a risk or not and plan/act accordingly.
  2. Then plan your entrance and exits;
    1. How will this be managed?
    2. Entrance criteria;

i.      Free entrance

ii.      Ticketed

iii.      Registration

iv.      Passes

v.      Invitation etc…

  1. What will be the best way to manage the protocol decided on?

1)      The easiest place for crime to happen is with people leaving things unattended, they are then easiest stolen… things; like hand bags, rucksacks, clothes, phones, stuff that we carry around. All this creates opportunity, even to the none-criminal; human nature dictates that we take stuff. Look, we get the real criminals that are planning to target events, and then we get hardcore criminals that will plan to use events as hunting grounds for large sums of cash, and then we get pure temptation, which creates opportunity to commit crime, as a result of a temptation, crimes of opportunity become a catalyst for other crimes. Let me explain. We forget stuff, we leave stuff lying around, and still a lot of us trust other people way too much; then it creates opportunity; huge opportunity to commit crime. When we see no evil we perceive no evil. Mostly this naivety is with our teenagers and then the rich that like leaving their stuff unattended does not help either. Patrons are the ones that directly create crimes of opportunity, when they get distracted, drunk, or relaxed. These aspects should be addressed as a first or priority, as it will be most prevalent. People mostly steal from each other at events, very seldom do they steal from the venue, or from the event stuff, thus it’s our first concern for security operators at events, we have to see how much, and by how far we can mitigate this one aspect…opportunity.

2)      Opportunity draws out; the street children, beggars, the unemployed, the drug vendors, the selling of counterfeit goods, and street vendors selling contraband. Strict access control and trespassing laws need to be put in place, and need to be enforced.

3)      Then we also get sheep mentality, “fat” sheep, which always attracts the wolves. People that just don’t fit into the environment we are setting up for entertainment. These are the ones that dress and accessorize with nothing to spare, careless, naïve, foreigners, with very expensive jewelry and clothing, as well as things you don’t need as a patron at these events. Things like iPods, iPads, Laptops, Cameras, Binoculars, and the rest – these things that we get at outdoor rave parties for instance, attract unwanted attention. Anything that would not be traditionally considered essential must be banned as a rule, – all things out of sorts and excessive. These items then become drawing cards and items of concern, when we have larger events. Only by prohibiting them as a rule, do we start creating less risk.

4)      Then the social lubricants, alcohol, legal and illegal drugs, as well as prescribed medication, drugs in any form.

5)      Then the sexual predators, especially with events catering for teenagers and minors, that hunt others that are intoxicated or alternatively by spiking drinks, food, etc. This is your greatest risk factor of any and all mentioned here, not even possible violent crime will change the nature of an event in an instant and tax you and your resources as much as this criteria…when kids start going missing or report being raped…

6)      Safe and secure modes of transport; Trains, Planes, Busses, Taxis, just about all modes of public transport become hunting grounds, especially if these events stretch over a few days. These need to be organized, and protected. Then you have private transport, these create all sorts of trouble and problems. Parking areas need to be managed well, and you will need parking attendance, security, and then also police. Don’t fool yourself, any and all parking areas must as a rule be demarcated, and organized, into rows beforehand, with some sort of a card/ ticket system to get in and out. People leave their cars, either with windows still open, soft tops down, or simply unlocked, they also leave expensive stuff in plain view and even on their cars. They drop credit cards in the parking areas, wallets, tickets; we need to cover these areas.

7)      Then we also have the scavengers, people who come, but can’t afford to pay to get in, they just sit in their cars, and party, drink, and dance, even braai in the parking areas. Trouble. Make sure that no person sits, in his car, or stays with a vehicle. Park and move, or leave immediately. We need parking areas to be sterile environments, in order to have a safe parking area.

8)      Then we get to the first real aspect of security; having proper access / entrance and egress control; there is a big distinction between the two. Access control is a control that works in layers, and then works with specific criteria, that only permits a certain category of person, or persons, access to certain places, and levels if they meet the criteria. Where entrance and exit is self-explanatory. Your event is only as safe as the hands and eyes searching and screening the patrons at the entrance… You need strong people, and even someone stronger in charge here, both physical, and mentally, as well as authorities – police backup. You will also need one pre-decided on event access criteria, and no one dares deviate from this. Have strict criteria – but not ridiculous either. The norm is; No firearms, knives, glass bottles, and whatever else you deem not appropriate. Here we need one criterion to be followed through. From; VIP’s, Guests, Patrons, Staff, POLICE, Caterers, Artist etc… make sure you cover each category. In some instances, you will require a vetting and accreditation process, even to the extent that you will be required to have off-site screening, of all prohibited substances, bomb check, finger printing, etc. and verification done. The nature and importance of the event will dictate the severity of the security measures required and implemented.

9)      Then we have asset protection; asset protection, is the protection of CASH, VIP’s. Products or whatever you deem to be important to the event, and its smooth functioning, as well as the property owners involved. We don’t want the main benefactor at a gala dinner’s car stolen, broken into, or damaged… we want VIPS to be able to get through crowds, un interrupted, we want the cash to be protected. This includes, security measures, such as VIP protection units, Police, CCTV monitoring,  Cash in transit firms, paramedics on site, fire fighters on site, bar code scanners, collection sites, restricted access areas. JOC and VOC operational.

10)   Then we need visible and clandestine patrols; visible patrols are the best deterrents. Having extra mounted patrols; equestrian, bicycle, motor-bike, and quad-bikes, beef up the appearance of security tremendously, even people sitting in observation towers, or placed strategically, and working on ways of becoming and being more visible is always a good idea. Electronic surveillance and CCTV, boost this aspect, the best is always the police; especially with dogs, security guards, patrollers, car guards, and bouncers, as well as VIP protectors abound, all these elements combined creates an ambiance of control and strict policing. Remember – security is more a perception you manage that a physical barrier… No barrier will stop a man, if he doesn’t want to be stopped; however, we all perceive a little ribbon between two poles to be a line we may not cross… does this make it a perception, or a physical barrier?

Now on to the planning phase; look at this article; SOP.

We work best with planning if we do it strategically, if we have a model, something to mould our ideas into plans with…

Remember, event security is all about being two things, being both efficient and effective; when we are efficient with people and effective with things, which stop crime, then we are in control. However, we must also realize, that with events management and safety and security, you will almost certainly be going right against the grain of what people want to do at events. You will be acting in direct conflict with them almost all the way. The test is not to create too much friction in having to enforce security, as well as safety, whilst performing your job function, where discretion, good Public Relations, and patience will all be taxed hard. You are in conflict with human nature. They are coming to have fun, get drunk even, and just throw caution and even good common sense to the wind. When our primary goals is to be strict, enforce law, and not allow them to do what they like, when they like, our focus is to protect and promote a safe and secure fun environment. Therefore, to reiterate to the entire collective the primary goal of event security, that we are here to protect, we are working with people’s lives, and their livelihood. We are not here to enjoy in the spirit, and mood. They are all entrusting us (by paying us) to work hard and be vigilant on their behalf, whilst they are having fun, and relaxing, letting down their guard.

You cannot afford to fumble, never defer decisions as a rule; if you have doubts, then speak your mind. By Not taking or making a decision, in these instances of doubt, is still a decision made. Never lead a team, and then leave them uncertain, what you do not communicate, is also interpreted nevertheless, rather take a decision as a collective on the minimum of facts, than leave it standing over unresolved. Keep people informed all the time, keep them in the flow and thick of things, and they will happily surrender all their energy.

Okay let us look at roles and responsibility

Responsibilities of Emergency Co-ordinator and Safety Marshals at events.

The Emergency Coordinator is the overall co-ordinator of al safety marshals. They are responsible for:

  1. Obtaining and posting emergency signage and drawing up of a floor plan and route evacuation map for the event.
  2. Overseeing the development, communication, implementation, and maintenance, and implementing of the overall Emergency evacuation plan (EEP).
  3. Ensuring the dissemination of the plan via opening of the event, making the announcement of the plan to the spectators, as well as the procedures there in.
  4. Checking up on safety personnel, their placement and distribution, and notifying all personnel of changes to the plan, or infringements.
  5. Maintaining up to date lists of emergency contact numbers, critical operations personnel, and any other personnel with assigned duties under this plan. Lists must be supplied in Appendix to the plan, of responsible people and contacts.
  6. In the event of a fire or other emergency, relaying applicable information to emergency personnel, the JOC and Public Safety officials.
  7. Establishing, demarcation and safeguarding of designated evacuation sites, and landing zones for helicopters, and emergency vehicles, for evacuees.

The Safety Monitors are responsible for:

  1. Familiarizing personnel with emergency procedures.
  2. Acting as liaison between event management and all their stakeholders
  3. Ensuring that attendees have vacated the premise in the event of an evacuation and for checking assigned areas, toilets, offices and other structures.
  4. Knowing where their designated assembly areas, exits, and staging areas are, and provide for a functional radio communication grid, dedicated to evacuation and medical emergencies only.
  5. Having a list of attendees and counting co-ordinators to make sure everyone is accounted for.
  6. Ensuring that disabled persons and visitors are assisted in evacuating the building, to the centre of the field..
  7. Evaluating and reporting problems to the emergency and disaster co-ordinator after any emergency or event of any nature.
  8. Posting the “Area Evacuation Plan” in the JOC work area

Signalling and controlling an evacuation of the stadium, in case of fire or other emergency

  1. In case of a fire, call the JOC, and fire department. Make known the exact location of the fire or disaster It may be necessary to activate additional fire alarm boxes, or shout the alarm, if people are still in the building and the alarm has stopped sounding, or if the alarm does not sound at all. This can be done while exiting. By means of loudhailers.
  2. Persons discovering a fire, smoky condition, or explosion should report to the safety advisor and JOC. Any pertinent fire or rescue information should be conveyed to the Fire Department. All emergency telephone numbers should be listed at the beginning of this EEP.
  3. To report all other emergencies, safety marshals should call the Police. State you name, your location, and the nature of the call. Speak slowly and clearly. Wait for the dispatcher to hang up first. On occasion the dispatcher may need additional information or may provide you with additional instructions.

Evacuation Procedures for Building Occupants

  1. When the fire alarm sounds, all personnel should ensure that nearby attendees are kept calm, and are made aware of the ensuing procedure that will be followed., quickly shutdown operating equipment (e.g., compressed gas cylinders), close doors and exit the building using stairwells.
  2. All occupants should proceed to the designated evacuation assembly point, and await further instructions.
  3. All school personnel should know where primary and alternate exits are located, and be familiar with the various evacuation routes available. Floor plans with escape routes, alternate escape routes, exit locations, and Designated Meeting Sites are located.

Notes and Precautions:

  • Small fires can be extinguished only if you are trained to use a fire extinguisher. However, an immediate readiness to evacuate is essential.
  • All fires, even those that have been extinguished, must be reported immediately.
  • Never enter a room that is smoke filled.
  • Never enter a room if the door is warm to touch.


  • R – Rescue: When you discover a fire, rescue people in immediate danger if you can do so without endangering yourself. Exit via safe fire exit. Close doors to room with fire.
  • A – Alarm: Sound the alarm by pulling a fire box and call from a safe distance, to notify the JOC and emergency services of precise location of fire.
  • C – Confine: Close all doors, windows and other openings.
  • E – Evacuate: Evacuate the building.

Disabled Occupants

If a disabled person is unable to exit the building unassisted, the Safety Marshals must notify the emergency response personnel of the person’s location. Transporting of disabled individuals up or down stairwells should be avoided until emergency response personnel have arrived. Unless imminent life-threatening conditions exist in the immediate area occupied by a non-ambulatory or disabled person, relocation of the individual should be limited to one safe area in close proximity to an evacuation area, at first and then to the designated evacuation area.

Legislation applicable on events in South Africa

We need a sign off list that the security must have to go around, and check that everyone has complied with the terms, conditions, and be legislatively in compliance.


1              Disaster Management Act 57/2002

2              Explosives Act No 68 of 1995

3              Criminal Procedures Act No 51 of 1997

4              Occupational Health and Safety Act 85/1993

5              Constitutional Act 108/1996

  • Sec.   41(1)(b) – well being of people
  • Sec. 152(1)(d) – local government

6              SIRA (Security Industry Regulatory Authority) Act 56/2001

7              Police Services Act No 68 of 1995

8              Tobacco Product Control Act 12/ 1999/Sec.2

9              Special Event Government Gazette 19067 – 24/7/1987 Events Stewards

10           Temporary Liquor Licence Sec. 19/1989

11           SABS 0246, Accessibility of building to disabled person

12           Dangerous Weapons Act 71 of 1968

13           Arms and Ammunition Act 75 of 1969

14           Trespass Act 6 of 1959

15           SABS 0139, Fire detection and alarm systems for buildings – system design installation servicing

16           SABS 0105, The classification, use and control of fire-fighting equipment – Part 1: Portable fire extinguishers

17           SABS 0139 – 2000, Fire detection and alarm systems for buildings – system design, installation and servicing

18           Code of Conduct -Health & Safety at Live Events – SANBS 0366C

Identification of leading agency in terms of incident, action, legislation, role, function, mandates and responsibility…

Things that the security head or event organiser or his delegated sidekick should get in place for the event with all the security cluster members are this. You must have in place a priority leading agency flow diagram – prior any event. At the end of the day he who runs the show is ultimately accountable, and will be called to account in court, then he will point to his appointee, that must be the one that is accountable, and responsible by law. It gets all complicated when we get outside entities, like governmental institutions; the police and local authorities entering the picture. Then we need to clarify and quantify everything, assume nothing. We demand to know just exactly who is who, and what their mandates are, and so too the rest. This aspect needs to be ironed out when the roles clarification and responsibility needs addressing with all the role players and stokeholds are concerned. Then you will find that some are just there for the show, and others are not as useful as what they would like to make believe and act.

We need to know whose job is it anyway – by law – and who is accountable and who is responsible for what? Especially if and when a thing goes wrong, who will testify in court? Otherwise you could find yourself operating in a vacuum, between one of two realities. One the role-players like the POLICE for instance don’t want to get involved in crowd control on the day, because they are not from the crowd control unit, or they forgot to bring their riot kit, or they just jump in and start spraying teargas instead, and the event is all over. Either way, these are possible eventualities and have or I am sure will happen again.  Let these two examples serve as good warning, of what can and has happen, if you take up a laxi-daisy attitude.  Then, with good reason it is best to have this exercise with all the leading agencies concerned, so that we can establish command and control lines before the BATTLE. Battle is not the place where you want to find out who your true friends are and who will just stand by and watch you drown.

We need to thrash out who takes lead under which conditions / scenario, and who will be assisting, how, where and when, and at which point, does someone “bigger” steps in and takes over, or will start rendering additional assistance. It needs to be drafted into a flow diagram, easily understood, and beefed up with real people’s names, designations, and contact details – for the security cluster we need the following in place;.

  1. Giving your organisation structure; by appointment of an overall co-ordinator, a deputy, and committee chairpersons as the first order of business.
  1. For the JOC – Joint organisation committee,
  2. and VOC – Venue organisation committee,
  3. LOC local organisation committees.
  4. Security cluster
  • Order the compilation of specific RISK and SWOT assessments (Strengths, Weakness, Opportunity and Threats) reports, for each discipline.
  • Run these by representative and specialist of Health, Security, Infrastructure, Transport, Marketing, Vendors, and Artist etc…get inputs and consolidate it into a final hazard, risk, and thereat assessment report for the JOC and Security cluster to comment and cat on.
  • Proper risk and SWOT assessment reports are essential, they create focus; Venue Hazard and Risk assessment reports for in and around the venue, first round, second and then final report, should deliver as a result the final report.
  • Then the process goes the rout of Prioritisation of possible threats, risk and hazards, and possible avenues of mitigation concluded in a findings and action report.
  • Identification of all possible tasks that need be done, having them scheduled, right up to opening day, and a run up to event list; Call it your Action Items list.
  • Vetting of people, giving them access cards, goes hand in glove with their level of authority, and mandates as well as functions they will be rendering at the venue – IE, fire inspector – can shut down events; can order evacuation, can shutdown buildings.
  • List of support service outside the venue, that could render support in the event of a emergency or disaster; hospitals, clinics, doctors, hardware outlet, etc. Also looking at additional services that may have to be performed, coupled to their respective “owners”. Like having divers and boats ready just outside the venue, in case a plane crashes into a lake, near an Air show for instance…
  • Identification of specific role players for all tasks, then plotting them on the command and control structure, along with their needs and requirements assessments.
  • Determining (primary/secondary roles for each role-player), who will lead and who must follow, in this instance, or when that happens, scenario, building a flow diagram.
  • Identification of possible (additional) special needs without which a role player cannot perform?
  • Confirmation and contractual sign off, of agreed upon roles, commitments and functions, and services, in a service level agreement, with each role-player, also possible. is the use of an MOU – memorandums of understanding….If we do this, then you will do that.
  • Compilation of divisional checklists – fire, health, security, police, electricity etc. For use during different scenarios, to be completed and submitted to auditors/ inspectors, and copies to be filed.
  • Identification and motivation for specific prevention and mitigation strategies. Determining costs, manpower, time frames for each role players implementing phase.
  1. The role out plan; who, what, where, when, how, how many, how much, what time…
  • Identifying location and requirements of the JOC and VOC, as well as minimum service levels, and standards, agreements.
  • As well as specific nominated and appointed responsible persons and their specific needs for filling key positions at the JOC before during and after the event.
  • Having updated contact lists, agendas, and meetings regularly.
  1. Revising, testing and updating of all plans.
  2. Although not specifically mentioned, the following must not be overlooked in the planning process:

i.      Having media liaison plans (proactive and reactive).

ii.      Having trauma plans for victims and role players.

iii.      Having evacuation and containment plans (the latter in the event of a possible external threat)

iv.      Regular testing of communication and other equipment aids that will be used.

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