Advice for Event Security

Gallowglass Security on the steps of Saatchi Gallery

Here at Gallowglass Crewing, our bread and butter is providing high quality crews for events, however, we’re always looking to branch our blog out into new industry areas. Thankfully, our friends at Gallowglass Security, specifically the Managing Partner, Giles Turnbull, has been kind enough to let us pick his brains. Giles has a wealth of experience and knows the world of Security at events inside out, so who better to provide advice on event security than him? In this article, Giles goes into great detail around choosing suppliers, planning and getting the best value from the security team.

Event security covers a huge gamut of events from massive public events attracting millions of visitors, to corporate AGMs, to intimate soirees for a select few. Nonetheless, some common principles apply throughout the range, and it is these common themes that will be addressed to assist the event organiser choosing the right security team and getting the most out of the team once assigned.

“Prior planning and preparation prevents piss poor performance”

The above saying is an old motto much favoured by salty old army instructors, and yet applies admirably to the event industry generally, and security in particular. Many pitfalls can be avoided with proper planning and preparation. Always provide your security supplier with as much information as possible. Whether dealing with a venue’s preferred supplier, or a security company new to the venue or the event, provide as much information as possible. This can include the nature of the event, what you expect from your security team, the attending demographic, any previous problems encountered with the event if held previously, venue evacuation procedures, licensing conditions and any other useful information that will assist the security provider in drawing up its Risk Assessment & Method Statement (RAMS). A good set of RAMS will be invaluable in determining the right level and feel of the security cover provided. As a rule, rather than an exception, try to incorporate a site visit with your chosen security provider. Though it may appear time consuming, many issues can be resolved promptly and clearly, obviating lengthy and frustrating email ping pong.

Getting the most out of your security provider

Security is very often the first point of contact for attendees to your event, and as such will set the tone for an event. It is, therefore, essential that the security provider is armed with as much information as possible in a timely manner so that the right team is selected for each and every event. Team leaders in particular will have accrued a vast fount of knowledge and experience. It is frequently the case that the production individual appointed to deal with security will be inexperienced and security teams will realise this straight away. A good team will take the success or otherwise of an event personally, so it is advantageous to harness that goodwill to good effect. Treat the team fairly and with respect and it will be paid back in spades!

A good security team, will often go over and beyond to help make an event a success. They will willingly help out to get things ready, but do not cut corners by trying to get them to do event crew’s work. There are far better trained and prepared crew to do that, and a suited and booted security officer will not appreciate being given a sweaty task moments before they are scheduled to look their smartest facing the public!  

When everybody says yes, it is often left to security to be the person who says no. More often than not it is not the message that is objected to, but the way that it is delivered. In these days of heightened tension, the public will generally accept the need for searches, and indeed, in many cases will welcome the efforts being made to deliver a safe event. A good security team will deliver required security measures professionally and courteously, nonetheless, incidents do occur. Good communication between production and security is essential. Work through the chain of command and this will ensure that most incidents can be avoided, others that will occur do not escalate unnecessarily, and those that do are dealt with efficiently and professionally.

Security is a people business, and all people however good, will from time to time have a bad day. Do not rescind from bringing any shortcomings from security personnel to the attention of the team leader or indeed higher management. All good security providers will be even keener than the event production team to ensure that their team members adhere to the highest possible standards. Do not allow a small niggle to develop into a problem. Be open and frank with the security team leader, because they will be anxious to nip any problem in the bud, and will welcome constructive criticism.

Choosing your security provider

There are almost limitless amounts of security providers to choose from. From small, one-man bands to global multi-nationals, all will promise “bespoke” or “tailor made” solutions. You may indeed be fine with either end of the spectrum, but there are a few pitfalls to be weary of. Very large companies may be wonderful corporate entities, they will tick every box, produce wonderful written work, and yet time and again will fail to deliver operationally. Their marketing and sales department may well exceed their operations capability, and very often your event will be too small for them to really care about it. At the other end, a very small company may well have a few excellent operators, but may cut corners in applying risk mitigation measures in terms of vetting personnel, being HMRC compliant, or taking on board the very real necessity of robust health and safety measures. Facing so few overheads, these companies may well be cheaper, and indeed substantially so. On most occasions, the above may not matter, but that is a risk for the event organiser to assess.

Though it does not necessarily follow that an accredited security company will deliver, there is comfort to be drawn from a company that has been subjected to thorough external verification of its quality management systems. It is worthwhile remembering that the entry level for security companies is nil. Though all deployed security officers by law, have to be licensed by the Security Industry Authority (SIA), there is no such constraint on security companies per se. The most credible marks for security companies are ISO9001 and the Approved Contractors Scheme (ACS) run by the SIA. It may well be that an event’s insurers will insist on the security provider being accredited to one or both of these schemes. Indeed, all security providers for government, local government and many QUANGOS now require ACS. Other useful indications may be health & safety accreditations such as SAFE and CHAS.

In addition to the above, there is no substitute for seeking recommendations from colleagues in the industry. They will understand your requirements and be in the best position to point you in the right direction.

A big thank you to Giles for providing his expert thoughts on this topic. Security is a vital component of any event, and getting it right can take a good event and turn it into a great one. Make sure you check out our blog for more info on the events industry and crewing. Alternatively, if you’re organising an event, we offer experienced event crews in London, Edinburgh and Birmingham. If you’re looking for a crew for your event, why not get in touch?

About the author

Business Development & Marketing Coordinator, Gallowglass Group

A Music Production graduate, Conor has spent the last 12 years in customer service roles. Joining Gallowglass initially as a Crewman, his talent for gaining clients' trust and forming lasting relationships, made him a shoo-in for our business development and marketing team. When he's not liaising with clients, Conor is our visuals expert - overseeing video content and imagery for our website, app and new vehicle and uniform branding.

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