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.