The Kravis Center: Protecting Our Guests, the Experience, and Customer Service
By Judy Mitchell, CEO, Kravis Center for the Performing Arts
Ask any senior executive in charge of a public venue what keeps them up at night and one of their top answers is likely to be “security.” The sad reality of our modern society is that popular venues of all kinds – concert halls, stadiums, schools, places of worship – have emerged as potential targets for terrorists and active shooters.
At the Kravis Center, like every performing arts venue, we’re focused on proactively addressing these security threats to ensure our audiences, artists and staff members remain safe. At the same time, we’re committed to providing the best customer experience possible to our patrons.
Security and the customer experience can sometimes be at odds. Making everyone line up single file and go through a metal detector, empty their pockets and take off their belts isn’t exactly good customer service, but many venues have been conditioned to think this is the only approach.
This is why we’re working to transform how we scan and identify deadly threats while ensuring that our patrons are provided a fast and secure entry.
We have a new approach to screening for weapons and explosives that provides significantly better detection rates than metal detectors while allowing for mass scanning of crowds – speeding up the security process.
Here are a few reasons why we implemented the Evolv Edge and what it means for our customers:
Unlike traditional screening solutions, the Evolv Edge allows our guests, artists and staff members to enter and exit the venue without the need to stop, pose, or empty their pockets.
Optimized Traffic Flow
By eliminating the need to stop each individual guest as they enter, the Evolv Edge enables us to provide a quicker and seamless guest experience, preventing bottlenecks and long lines from occurring.
Advanced Detection Abilities
Today’s threats are no longer limited to firearms and we wanted to make sure our security measures weren’t either. With the Evolv Edge we detect explosives and other weapons concealed on an individual, including fully non-metallic explosives. It even offers multiple sensitivity settings to respond to different threat scenarios should our risk-based security policies change.
Because threats, technology and security are constantly changing, we wanted to identify a partner that would help us keep pace with those changes and ensure we evolve with the industry. Evolv’s industry pedigree, paired with its multi-disciplinary team of experts are keeping us on the front-lines of performing arts security today and in the future.
While all of these advanced capabilities have significantly improved our security measures, we strongly believe that good communication and training for our security team members, staff and ticket holders are key pieces of our security puzzle. By pairing the Evolv Edge with our high-quality customer service, we can be confident in our ability to provide high-quality security and guest experiences.
After working with Evolv and the Evolv Edge for over a year now, we’ve been nothing but thrilled with the results. We even have patrons regularly approach our staff to express their appreciation for the increased security measures. We look forward to continuing our partnership with Evolv to bring our guests, staff and artists safe and enjoyable experiences.
Judy Mitchell is CEO of The Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, a professional performing arts center in downtown West Palm Beach, Florida. Read more about the “Five Steps to Implementing a Balanced Security Plan at Performing Arts Venues” by Anil Chitkara, president of Evolv Technology.
Photo Credit: Nick Juhasz.
Five Steps to Implementing a Balanced Security Plan at Performing Arts Venues
By Anil Chitkara, Co-Founder and President –
In a previous blog post, we explored how the changing threat landscape has impacted security at performing arts venues. With attackers expanding their targets beyond iconic venues in the largest cities, it’s imperative that venues around the world and in small towns create a more concrete strategy and plan to improve their security approach.
However, performing arts venues pose a unique set of security challenges. Open design concepts, an influx of guests ten minutes before showtime, and varying capabilities of guards are challenges that a plan must consider when tailoring security for visitors that also meets a venue’s specific needs.
At smaller venues and venues without a dedicated security lead, the responsibility of developing and implementing a security plan often falls to individuals who are responsible for other areas such as facilities or guest services. To help get started, here are five steps smaller venues can take towards developing their own formalized security plans.
Step 1 – Find a Trusted Advisor
For venues that don’t have dedicated security professionals, the first step is to identify a trusted advisor who can serve as a resource and help demystify the process. We often find that venue managers think the first step is to hire a standalone security manager, when in fact an advisor can initially provide a similar level of insight and guidance.
This advisor can be anyone from the local chief of police to an FBI liaison or even a security director at another performing arts venue. What’s most important is that venue managers identify someone they trust who can help them start to answer questions like, “what am I missing?” and “what are my peers focusing on?”.
Step 2 – Assess Your Current Plan
Before diving into developing a formal security plan, venue managers should take the time to evaluate any security measures in place to get a sense for what is and is not working. During this step, it is important to incorporate feedback from other “groups” within the venue. For example, in addition to taking guest feedback into consideration, venue managers should talk to members of the operations team and the front of house manager to get a holistic understanding of past successes and challenges.
Step 3 – Identify the One Thing You Can Do Tomorrow
With guidance from their trusted advisor, as a next step, venue managers should think about where they can get started and what immediate changes they can implement that will improve their security process. Keep in mind, this doesn’t need to be a sweeping, drastic change. Look to identify one action that will make an immediate impact. For example, provide active shooter training to guards or have staff watch a 30-minute training video. What this tactic means and looks like can vary based on the venue and the procedures that are already in place.
Step 4 – Make a List of Additional Security Measures to Implement
Depending on the venue, there are a number of practical security procedures and processes that managers can look to start implementing after their initial phase is complete. Two valuable resources are security managers at other performing arts venues in other areas, and security managers at other commercial venues (such as arenas or tourist attractions) in the same city. These people can help identify key issues and security measures they are taking. For example, these might include hiring guards for the next high-profile event or starting to research various CCTV vendors to identify the best fit.
To help, there are a number of resources that venue managers can reference. For example, the International Association of Venue Managers has a Safety & Security Subcommittee, which is a valuable resource for venue managers; while the New Jersey Department of Homeland Security frequently releases information that is helpful and relevant for venue managers.
Step 5 – Develop a Plan to Put Procedures in Place
After identifying which practical steps to execute, venue managers should look to develop a comprehensive implementation plan. This plan may span weeks or months, and should take budget cycles and required approvals into account. Managers should consider which steps will have the highest impact to the venue’s overall security posture and consider implementing those measures first. Other steps can be phased in over time. This is an opportunity to tap your trusted advisor for guidance.
As venue managers turn their attention to addressing physical security challenges head on, they will likely be met with questions and concerns related to guest experience and logistics. To help mitigate these concerns, venue managers should focus on delivering a balanced approach that considers both security and the visitor experience so that guests continue to visit the venue and are provided with the safety they come to expect.
It can be overwhelming to think about implementing a formalized security plan. By following the five steps outlined above, venue managers can help ensure an enhanced security process that also provides a simple, unobtrusive experience to visitors.
Read this case study to learn how one performing arts venue improved its security posture by screening for both explosives and firearms while improving the visitor’s screening experience.
Evaluating the Need for Weapons Screening at Performing Arts Venues
By Neil Sandhoff, Vice President of North America –
Determining the need for a weapons policy and a threat detection solution at performing arts centers involves more than the security director to make purchasing and implementation decisions. From budget, policy and patron experience, the leadership team must work together to organize, evaluate, plan and implement and communicate such an important initiative.
This is entirely understandable. It’s one thing to work with a director of security and their technical staff, who are measured on their ability to keep employees, customers and other visitors safe. But involving the front-of-the-house team and human resources, who are responsible for creating the best customer and employee experience possible, is an even higher bar. A bad experience–say, delays or pat-down searches–can have a direct downward impact on sales. So if the front-of-the-house thinks a weapons screening technology is a bad idea, it probably won’t be seriously considered.
At least that’s how it has been. I’ve been focused on providing security solutions for over 15 years, but am now seeing the first meaningful shift in the relationship between security and the patron experience teams. Given the rise of senseless lone-shooter attacks in the U.S., many venues are coming to believe – or are at least are willing to entertain the possibility – that patrons will tolerate reasonable inconveniences for added security as long as it doesn’t degrade the overall experience too much. In fact, some of our customers believe their patrons want to make that trade-off. They want to know the people in charge of the facility they’re visiting understand the nagging “could it happen here” feeling they have on a night out.
This is especially true with performing arts venues, given the horrific attacks like those that took place in Manchester, England and Las Vegas, Nevada. In fact, executives at some of these venues are increasingly stretching their purview beyond the front door and into the street where people wait in line for popular events. Due to the increase in terror attacks using rented trucks and other vehicles, such as in Nice, France and Barcelona, Spain, venues are looking for ways to get people off the street as quickly as possible and into the safety of their facility.
The fact that patrons must already stop to hand over or scan a ticket creates a natural opportunity to do screening in a way that won’t cause delays. We did a time study at a Broadway theater earlier this year and found that the ticket-taking process typically takes around five to 10 seconds per person in a live environment. If we can help the venue screen the patron in that time or less, everybody wins.
Unlike many pro sports stadiums, which have had checkpoints and metal detectors for decades, many of these smaller, arts-related venues are adding physical security for the first time. Many don’t even have security chiefs. And yet performing arts is one of our fastest-growing segments. If you work for a performing arts venue or any other type of company that is looking to create a security strategy as quickly and efficiently as possible, here are a few best practices:
Get out of the security silo, fast: In the old days, the trick to implementing physical security was to work with the head of security and let him or her try to overcome the natural resistance from other factors in their environment. But we’ve found it works best when representatives from the front-of-the-house, finance, facilities and human resources, were involved in the sales process, ideally from the initial conversation. The security director provided a clear understanding to all the leadership team the consequences of an active shooter and suicide bomber in the facility and the solutions available to deter or prevent such a terrible event.
The more buy-in, the better: As security becomes a higher priority for a company, it makes sense to expand the number of seats at the table when considering new security solutions. The most celebrated accomplishments in implementing security screening at Performing Arts Centers I have witnessed involved the inclusion of the entire leadership team from the beginning. The CEO needs to bring their teams together and keep engaged throughout the process, clearly identifying their end-state goals and understanding of the tradeoffs. In one very successful scenario we witnessed, the chief executive officer directly led the process which involved security, human resources, front-of-house, facilities and finance to drive towards the optimal solution.
The Show Must Go On: Three Ways Performing Arts Venues Can Improve Security Processes
By Anil Chitkara, Co-Founder and President, Evolv Technology –
Why did this happen? Why now?
Twenty years ago, we asked ourselves these questions after hearing news of senseless terrorist attacks at iconic locations in major world cities.
Today, we’re still asking questions, but now we’re concerned about where the next attack might happen. Shootings and bombings are no longer limited to iconic venues in iconic cities. They can happen anywhere – at an indoor concert in Manchester, England, an outdoor show in Las Vegas, Nevada, a nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Terrorism has proliferated into many different towns and cities, perpetuated by individuals inspired in their basements and armed with weapons from stores in their neighborhood.
The security professionals responsible for protecting different types of venues including entertainment and performing arts centers also ask these questions. While most use methods such as deployed guards and closed-circuit TV (CCTV) cameras as the cornerstones of their security strategy, there are limitations to these methods. In the U.S., for example, security guards earn an average annual wage of just over $30,000 and the annual turnover at guard companies is between 100% to 300%. On average, a security guard will remain in the same job for only three to 12 months! Technology can help mitigate these inconsistencies and is critical to enabling the more effective protection of these venues.
People going to see a movie, show, or concert are out to have an enjoyable experience. They have countless ways to spend their time and money, and organizations work hard to provide the best “entertainment” for their paying guests. They do not want to encumber their guests with long lines, slow security or burdensome processes. With improved technology, today it is possible for entertainment venues to offer a simple, unobtrusive experience to visitors entering while providing an enhanced level of security.
Performing arts venues pose a unique set of security challenges. Theaters, for example, tend to be high profile venues that play a prominent role in their cities. Live theater performances start promptly at a designated time, often with guests arriving from dinner or work just before showtime. Performers and patrons don’t want to be distracted by people filing in after the show commences, so doors are closed when the curtain goes up. As a result, security teams are under tremendous pressure to get people screened and seated quickly. Just before showtime is when the security process gets most chaotic.
Many performing arts venues are open and inviting by design. They were designed to encourage the public to come in and enjoy the art and architecture. This open environment runs directly counter to a secure building perimeter with checkpoints.
The “who” and the “what” are also unique elements for these organizations. The genre or artist can often dictate the type of crowd one might expect to see in attendance. The audience attending a chamber music recital is likely very different from the audience attending a rock concert. As entertainment venues broaden the types of performances they offer, security should be able to ”ramp up” or “ramp down” accordingly.
Lastly, guards are people and human behavior is inconsistent. Capability from guard to guard is different, and a specific guard’s security vigilance often wanes over the course of an evening. Very likely, the one hundredth person he or she screens is subject to a different level of scrutiny than the first. Experience, training, fatigue, and human error play a role in how thorough and effective a search is conducted.
Venue operators have an opportunity to upgrade their security capabilities to be ready for the changing nature of threats. Below are three ways they can keep their patrons happy and safe:
- A visible and effective security process can protect today’s event and deter tomorrow’s potential threat. Use security technology to improve upon the existing processes with more consistent and automated detection capability. Take the security approach to the next level by providing your guards with technology to augment their practices.
- Allow for an approach that can flex up security when the intelligence warrants it and move back to a baseline level when it doesn’t. Offer the ability to consistently screen and to change the level of screening depending on when or where the event is or who the performer is.
- Balance the security and patron experience to ensure it doesn’t make it too obtrusive for the paying guests. Rather than using clunky metal detectors, use a blend of state-of-the-art technologies – high throughput technologies with sensors and artificial intelligence.
The threat landscape has shifted significantly in recent years. We could all use a night out to forget about the daily headlines. Performing arts organizations can help us enjoy our visits by adopting modern security methods that protect while keeping the user experience intact.
To learn more about how to balance security and visitor experience, click here.
Shining a Spotlight on Better Event Security
By Melissa Cohen, Vice President, Marketing –
Mass shootings like the one that occurred this past weekend at The Jacksonville Landing entertainment complex and last year at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival in Las Vegas shake us to our core. They make us feel vulnerable in moments when we should instead feel excited. Large performance spaces have been cultural cornerstones for thousands of years because they uniquely bring together people regardless of race, creed or gender over a shared love for the arts. Attacks like these exploit one of the most powerful uniting forces in our society.
The challenge for security professionals is that these venues take a number of different forms. For example, in the Boston area you could see Moulin Rouge at the Emerson Colonial theatre, the Eagles at TD Garden arena and Cirque du Soleil’s LUZIA under a big top at the grounds of Suffolk Downs – all within the same month. As adversaries shift their focus to public places and become increasingly innovative in their strategies, we need a new approach to venue security.
A New Focus for Attackers
Since adversaries have moved on from hard targets such as airplanes, government facilities and military bases, there has been a significant shift to soft targets such as performing arts centers, sporting venues and arenas. While this is widely known – our CEO tells the story often of the anxious conversations he recently witnessed fellow parents having as he picked up his son’s friends to take them to an Imagine Dragons concert at a stadium – not enough is being done to address this new focus of keeping loved ones safe.
Further, the attack method and the perpetrator have 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 as adversaries shift their focus from high-profile locations to anywhere people gather.
Raising the Current on New Security Technology
While attackers have focused in on specific venues, security screening technology has been largely unchanged. Today when you go to a see a show at a theatre, you’ll likely wait in line for sometimes 30-45 minutes before approaching a metal detector for which you have to empty your pockets or divest personal items before walking through. Many stadium and arena operators no longer even 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.
A Well-Orchestrated Defense
While technology is an important component to an effective security plan for a performing arts center, it’s just one piece of the puzzle. When building a security plan, facility managers should work to understand their threat vectors, vulnerabilities, and mitigation plans. They should incorporate the following components into a comprehensive security plan.
- Intelligence: Understand and identify the threats to the area, building, and people in it. Work with various federal, state, and local enforcement agencies and leverage the facility team’s 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. They should be trained on an ongoing basis in security protocols as well as identifying suspicious behavior.
- Processes and Protocols: Facility managers can no longer use a “one-size-fits-all” approach to security. They need tailored systems and well thought out processes and protocols – like risk-based security – to ensure security layers are properly deployed throughout a venue.
- Technology: As mentioned above, new technologies can provide threat prevention beyond the capabilities of guards to significantly improve screening operations. CCTV and access control expand the reach of the team on the ground. Further, facial recognition technology can be employed to recognize and authorize employees in an employee screening application or to adjust screening for VIPs.
- Visitor Experience: With new technology and processes, it’s important that customer experience is not a secondary consideration – especially at a performing arts center. A security experience can maintain a level of calm and unobtrusiveness.
By employing a holistic approach, security guards and facility managers at performing arts centers can be armed with the information they need to quickly and confidently assure a safe environment for their visitors. With the right technology, they can effectively screen and adjust layers of security in response to changing threat levels without impacting visitors and their normal pace of life. In fact, when selecting new technologies, facility managers should look for solutions that provide a balance between improved security and a better visitor experience.
While related issues like the gun control debate may divide us, cultural experiences like seeing a show or going to a concert unite us. We can all agree that we deserve to feel safe in all the places we gather. At Evolv, we will continue to innovate to bring intelligence and security at the perimeter of soft targets to keep people safe – at performing arts centers and beyond.
Read more here about safeguarding against soft target attacks.