When guests feel safe, they can relax and enjoy themselves more. Providing a safe event for your guests begins with planning ahead. Often, that planning requires you to imagine some bleak scenarios.
But with a plan in place to handle the things that could go wrong, you’ll be able to focus on happier aspects of your event. Here are a few ways you can plan ahead to ensure your guests stay safe.
Contemplating the terrible things that might happen at your event can seem downright morbid. However, being realistic about potential threats to your guests’ safety will allow you to be prepared to handle them if they do arise.
According to Maegan Ferguson, owner of Absolute Security of Idaho, it’s important to have a plan, even if you’re hosting a small event.
“It really doesn’t matter the size of the event, because honestly, anything can happen at any time,” she says. “It only takes one person to do a bad deed.”
An increasing concern for many is the threat of an active shooter. A recent FBI report says there were 27 active shooter incidents in the U.S. in 2018, with 16 of those shootings being workplace related.
Preparing for such an incident is difficult, according to Lt. Tom Fleming of the Boise Police Department. He says the unfortunate truth is it’s really difficult to tell who might commit an act of violence before it happens.
However, Fleming says it’s a good idea to have a basic plan in place for how to exit a venue quickly, or if need be, lock down the venue. The Boise Police Department also offers active-shooter training to any business in the area. Fleming says a company can request a trainer come to their business by simply calling the Boise Police Department.
“We’ve done that for several businesses, and I think people really enjoy having the awareness,” Fleming says.
Deciding what security measures best suit your event might depend on who’s attending. If you’ve booked a high-profile speaker or entertainer, you might consider taking extra steps to ensure their safety. And if you’ve booked a speaker who tends to attract protesters, you may want to consider hiring security guards, even if that speaker won’t be discussing contentious topics at your event.
Ferguson says the size of the expected crowd plays a role as well. She also notes that for some large events, permits might need to be obtained from the city, and certain security situations may be required to obtain those permits.
According to Lt. Fleming, before booking a venue, it’s a good idea to check with local fi re departments as well because the fi re marshal may have specific rules about the required number of exit points based on the size of your expected crowd.
Even if you’re not required to hire security for your event, you may want it for an extra level of comfort. Though before hiring a security company, it’s good to think about what tasks you’d like those security personnel to perform. Security guards can be stationed around the venue, providing a presence or even offering directions to restrooms. Or they can go as far as checking bags at the door or even patting guests down for weapons, though that is likely too extreme for most events.
When thinking of a security guard, some might envision a beefy man standing by the door like a bouncer at a bar. While you could hire someone to do that, Ferguson says it doesn’t have to be that way in order to have a security presence at your event.
“You can have a presence with a smile,” she says. “Every single one of my guys will gladly interact with anybody, and they’ll do it with a smile, because that sets the tone for the overall event.”
Ferguson says another advantage of a smile is it makes security more approachable. If a guest has a concern, they’re more likely to approach your security personnel if they view them as friendly.
“The same goes for the guy that’s just sitting in a chair,” she says. “You want to feel like your security is interactive and present, you don’t want it to feel like they’re sitting in a chair bored out of their mind playing on their phone.”
When deciding how many security personnel you’ll need for your event, Ferguson says it’s important to consider the size of your venue, making sure your security personnel would have the ability to reach any part of the venue quickly.
Before hiring a company to provide security to your event, Ferguson says it’s important to research them by talking to others who’ve used that company and by checking online reviews. Hiring security is ultimately an investment in your guests’ safety. Taking the time to find the right company will ensure that investment pays off.
“Security is like a tattoo,” Ferguson says. “Good security is not cheap, and cheap security is not good.”
The venue you select may offer security benefits or even assist you in hiring a security company. Mary-Michael Rodgers, communications manager for the Boise Centre, says the facility is equipped with electronic access control at entrance doors.
“In March of 2018, Boise Centre added a full-time safety and security specialist, who has the primary task of assisting events with all of their security planning,” she says.
According to Rodgers, through existing relationships with private event security companies and local law enforcement agencies, Boise Centre can assist event planners in hiring security staff that meets the needs of any event.
Other venues offer secured access buildings and security staff as well, so if you anticipate needing these elements, be sure to discuss your needs before booking a venue.
No matter where your event is held or how much security you hire, Lt. Fleming says it’s important to encourage your guests to report anything suspicious.
“Be aware of strange bags or packages left behind,” he says. “If there’s anything questionable, they need to call the police as soon as they can, because we’ll definitely come out and take a look.”
Fleming says that no call is too small and that calling police can, at the very least, provide some peace of mind.
“There’s no reason to feel bad about it or feel like they’re wasting our time, because we would much rather have a million false alarms instead of one thing where somebody saw something and didn’t tell us and something bad happened,” he says. “If it’s bothering somebody, then they should tell somebody.”
Whether you hire a security firm or rely on your venue’s security measures, Ferguson says it’s important to communicate with your security staff. Let them know if you’d like them to mingle with your guests, or if you’d prefer they position themselves in a particular spot. Planning for your security needs early on will allow you to focus your attention on providing your guests with a fun event.
“Security shouldn’t be there to add stress,” Ferguson says. “It should be there to take it away.”