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.