Three Questions Security Directors Need to Ask Before the Next Soft-Target Event
By Anil Chitkara, President, Evolv Technology
It’s been more than a year since a suicide bomb was detonated in the foyer of the Manchester Arena. The blast killed twenty-two concert-goers and injured hundreds more. Since then, I have met with security directors from concert halls, stadiums, arenas, sports teams, and convention centers around the world. These security directors are typically asked three questions by their venue owners and managers:
1. How vulnerable are we to this type of attack?
2. What are other venues doing to prevent this type of attack?
3. How can we prevent this type of attack from happening in our venue?
The short answer is, there’s still more to be done.
A typical reaction after the Manchester event was for security directors to reach out to the security consulting industry to help them address these questions. This often included a new or refreshed threat assessment and vulnerability analysis that resulted in identification of security gaps. People, processes, and technology were then evaluated in various combinations to close those gaps.
An initial focus on upskilling people typically includes training to make guards and employees more vigilant and aware of the signs of trouble. This is a quick way to reinforce important skills. Venues will conduct formal internal training, either by bringing in an outside firm or working closely with law enforcement through various programs they offer. Having trained staff is an important part of the overall security plan.
Next, many of these venues step up contact with various sources of intelligence to help them understand and identify the threats to their area, their building, and, if applicable, the people performing at their site. These sources stream in from various federal, state, and local agencies or fusion centers, through a range of companies providing intelligence-as-a-service, and through the venue’s own network of individual contacts. For example, the Joint Terrorism Task Forces in more than 100 U.S. cities and similar international intelligence bodies are a critical component in this fight against terrorism.
The third key piece involves making changes to processes and technology. These may include fortifying the perimeter with bollards, adding “eyes on” such as CCTV cameras, or improving visitor screening operations. Process and technology changes, implemented effectively, can multiply the available forces, enabling significant improvements to both the effectiveness and efficiency of the overall security operation.
Decisions about which security technology should be deployed and what processes to wrap around them are highly dependent on the threats and vulnerabilities of a specific venue. There are some key considerations in this decision:
How vulnerable are we to this type of attack?
A key question is: what threats are we most concerned about? Based on physical layout, crowd concentration, and location, some venues are most concerned with person-borne threats and others are concerned with vehicles used as weapons. The threat of an individual bringing a firearm or explosive device to do harm to a crowd of people is high on most lists. Typically, threats are identified and prioritized within a logical framework including the probability of a given type of event, the impact on the venue and its visitors, and the vulnerability based on current security measures.
What are our operational realities?
One comment we consistently hear loud and clear is that a traditional airport or courthouse “mag and bag” checkpoint security process isn’t a viable solution. Security leaders do not want to create an environment where visitors or fans are required to remove all the items from their pockets and place them into a small white bowl, walk through a screening device, and then re-collect their items and go on their way. A manual search of every bag also significantly slows down the screening process and is intrusive to visitors.
What are the gaps in our security plan?
Firearms and explosive devices concealed on an individual are two concerns high on the list of most security directors. There are thousands of people converging on these venues in a short period of time, often just before the start of a show or beginning of a game. To effectively and efficiently screen each visitor for these types of threats is impractical, if not impossible, using traditional technologies – often a mix of walk through metal detectors, manual bag checks and guards trained to identify known trouble makers. For some venues, it’s canines for explosive detection. Evolv has combined all three of these capabilities into a single high-speed device.
Our formula is simple:
- Find the threats we care most about: explosive devices and firearms
- Make the visitor experience as unobtrusive as possible
- Ensure throughput between 500 to 1,000 people per hour (per security lane)
- Make it easy for guards or officers to use
- Ensure it is flexible so that it can be used at multiple locations and in different operational configurations to screen different groups of people
Arenas, performance centers, and stadiums have begun deploying new security screening technologies such as the Evolv Edge, and even more are conducting pilots to understand how best to deploy them. However, too few have taken proactive steps to effectively protect their visitors and fans from today’s threats. Let’s focus on detecting the threats we know are out there.
Learn more about what Gillette Stadium is doing to safely secure its own venue.