Managing event security teams – rotate your staff!

Managing event security teams – rotate your staff!

The one thing that I’ve noticed most about the way security teams are managed at some of the events I’ve worked, is the tendency to allocate each security operative a post and leave them there. Now this might be suitable for a short duration event, say three or four hours, but longer events could be managed better.

My experiences are drawn from working festival and other live events overseas since 2013. I can remember one event in particular when the Event Safety and Security Manager asked me to manage the operational security team. It was an opportunity for me to demonstrate some of the very simple techniques I’d been using for years during my time in the Army. Some of the basic principles of ‘posting a sentry’ came to mind: tell them what they are expected to do (in the event industry this should be an Assignment Instruction of some sort and include ‘actions on’), duration of stag (that’s military slang for ‘how long you’re going to be there) and your arcs of observation and fire (for the event security officer that means your area of responsibility). Seems simple, right?

The most challenging aspect of managing the team during the event was creating resilience whereby I had enough staff to crew each position at the appropriate levels throughout the event. For example, during the busy periods of ingress I would surge the staff levels at the access point and draw from less essential areas. One of the issues that I encountered time and again was the concept of hiring the exact number of staff as per the number of agreed posts. There are often budgetary or other issues in the background but hiring one or two additional staff (depending upon the size of the event and the staff levels) would enable a rotation of staff at the fixed posts via a ‘relief in place’ system. You could always deploy the additional staff as a roving patrol thereafter. But don’t forget to anticipate for ‘blow outs’. You need to start the event suitably crewed, as per your proposal to the organiser (and may include legal safety compliances).

When I implemented this process at the event the security team responded well. I was able to initiate a ‘chain reaction’ whereby my additional officer would relieve the first post. The first person to be relieved would take a short break before relieving the next post, and so on until all officers had been relieved. Depending upon the size of the event and the number of posts will dictate the length of break, but rotating staff will help to keep them stimulated, provide some relief from weather conditions and provide an opportunity for regular breaks.

There are obviously critical times during an event when all posts need to be crewed appropriately, so these periods need to be considered and factored into the programme to ensure everyone has been rotated, ‘fed and watered’ and the appropriate members of the team are on the correct posts prior to the beginning of the critical period.

In my experience the easiest way to manage the team in this manner is to trust the team leaders and supervisors that are working for me. Provide them with a detailed instruction of how you want to manage the team during the event then let them loose to do what they do best. Supervise by all means but don’t micro-manage!

Rotating staff through a series of posts isn’t ‘black magic’ and doesn’t require sophisticated management techniques: a notebook and pencil, the right number of staff members and the ability to visualise the event and move staff around the venue as required. Plot it onto a simple list and hey presto!