As adversaries shift their focus to public places where people gather, a need for a new approach to venue security has emerged. Attackers are looking beyond the bleachers and it’s no longer enough to screen visitors and guests as they enter the stadium.
In this Q&A, Facility Executive spoke with Anil Chitkara, president and co-founder of Evolv Technology about the current threat landscape and the elements that make up an effective security plan. The company is a physical security startup built to help proactively keep people safe by detecting and preventing threats. Over the last few years Chitkara has met with hundreds of security directors from concert halls, arenas, and convention centers around the world discussing how to effectively protect visitors from today’s threats.
FE: As adversaries shift their focus toward event arenas such as stadiums and music venues, a need for a new kind of security has emerged — can you elaborate on this “evolution” a bit more?
Chitkara: In the past, attackers focused on hard targets such as airplanes, government facilities and military bases, but in recent years there has been a significant shift to soft targets such as sporting venues, arenas, and open office campuses. Further, the method of preforming an attack, and the perpetrator, has changed. The rise of crowd-sourced terrorism has led to readily accessible means for an attack. Firearms, vehicles and home-made explosives are within reach, and the target of these attacks has moved from high profile locations to almost anywhere people gather.
FE: What are the elements that make up an effective physical security plan?
Chitkara: When building a security plan, facility managers should work to understand their threat vectors, vulnerabilities, and mitigation plans. Five key factors the plan should include are:
- Intelligence: Understand and identify the threats to the area, building, and people in it. To do this, managers should work with various federal, state, and local enforcement agencies as well as leverage their own network of contacts. Threats are constantly changing; therefore, intelligence must be ongoing.
- People and Training: Guards and officers serve as the frontline, they know the facility and the people in it. As this team is often a mix of former law enforcement and hired guards, they should be trained in security protocols as well as identifying suspicious behavior. As guard turnover can be high, and protocols change frequently, training must be a regular, ongoing activity.
- Processes and Protocols: Facility managers can no longer use a “one-size-fits-all” approach to security. As new threats emerge, they need tailored systems and well thought out processes and protocols to ensure security layers are properly deployed throughout a venue.
- Technology: New technologies can provide threat prevention beyond the capabilities of guards to significantly improve screening operations. CCTV, access control and facial recognition expand the reach of the team on the ground.
- Visitor Experience: With new technology and processes it’s important that customer experience is not a secondary consideration. A security experience can maintain a level of calm and unobtrusiveness. When selecting new technologies, facility managers should look for solutions that provide a balance between improved security and a better customer experience.
FE: How can technology make events safer?
Chitkara: While attackers have expanded their focus, security screening technology has been largely unchanged. Many stadium and arena operators no longer allow visitors to bring backpacks or other bags into their venues to improve the efficiency of screening. Advancements in technology are changing this status quo, providing higher throughput and improved threat detection with less disruption. Some combine personnel and bag screening to help minimize removal of personal items and speed up the process. These technologies are using the latest sensors, software and user experience design principles to provide an improved level of security with a better visitor experience.
FE: Where can facility management learn more?
Chitkara: There are a few different places to find out more about new technologies and approaches to keep venues safer. Many venue managers and security directors rely on their personal network to find out what others are considering. There are different events that include venue management shows and security trade shows. Finally, law enforcement in your local area may have invitation-only events or resource officers to share information, best practices and new technologies.
You are right that with events, you have to have proper security in order for things to go smoothly. Of the things that you have listed here, having properly trained people would be one of the better ways that you can ensure a safe event. For me, I’d look for that when the time comes where I’ll be hosting a large event.
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