It started with 2016 Bastille Day attack in Nice. Eighty-four people were killed when a driver deliberately drove his truck into the crowd of revelers. Ten children were killed that day. This was not the first attack of this nature. In 1981 and 1983, there were similar incidents in Beirut. However, since the Nice Attack, there have been similar incidents at Ohio State University as well as in Berlin, Jerusalem, the United Kingdom (Westminster) and Stockholm. The May 18 Times Square incident has led to speculation that cars will be banned from Times Square. In the most recent attack on London Bridge over the weekend, a van mounted the curb and the driver deliberately mowed down pedestrians and three attackers then stabbed random innocent people nearby, killing seven (more than a dozen victims are currently hospitalized).
The recent bombing at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester (UK), in which a 23-year-old man detonated a shrapnel-laden device, injuring 116 individuals and killing 23 (including children), was another reminder of the vulnerability of soft targets.
What are the implications for event industry professionals? One thing is certain. These incidents are a HUGE wake-up call.
With soft targets becoming increasingly vulnerable to attacks by terrorists, lone-wolf attackers as well as individuals who have severe psychiatric disorders, it is extremely important for event planners to heighten their vigilance. Whether it’s a conference, trade show, sporting event, concert, festival or corporate event, anywhere crowds gather can become a target.
At minimum, the following steps are recommended:
1. Conduct security audits and risk assessments
This is becoming a MUST DO not a nice-to-do—and should be undertaken by a team of security professionals (no time for amateurs).
2. Background checks
Perform thorough background checks on all staff and volunteers, both temporary and permanent.
3. Control access points
This should not be limited to entry and exit points. Take steps to control access to stage doors, staff entrances, delivery bays, emergency exits and parking (both outdoor and underground).
4. Erect barricades
Remember to also provide protection in areas where participants are boarding shuttle busses and accessing event venues from public transportation and pedestrian walkways. Venue owners should consider erecting permanent barricades.
In some incidents, attackers have ploughed through barricades and attacked the crowds. So set up very sturdy barricades far from the crowd.
5. Consider armed security
RELATED STORY: Do you need armed security at your event?
6. Use metal detectors
7. Conduct bag searches
It is unfortunate, but frisking, which has become a common precaution in many nightclubs, may soon become necessary at run-of-the-mill meetings and events.
8. Ban weapons
When possible, bar the possession of weapons by attendees and participants—as we’ve seen, this should include knives and other bladed objects, as well as firearms. U.S. jurisdictions present special challenges in view of the Second Amendments. Please consult the following blog posts.
RELATED STORY: Getting a grip on event firearms policies
RELATED STORY: Firearms at events…and your liability
RELATED STORY: Gun laws & event venues interactive state-by-state map
Soft target attacks are a game changer for our industry. Unfortunately, they are not going to go away any time soon. If anything, indications are that it is not a matter of if they will come to your jurisdiction but when. As the Latin saying goes “Praemonitus, praemunitus.” The translation? “Forewarned is forearmed.”