Survey Shows Fast, Reliable Screening is Crucial to Bringing Back Live Events

By Anil Chitkara, Evolv Co-founder

The Harris Poll survey shows event-goers are just as concerned about physical safety as COVID protection – and not satisfied with traditional metal detectors.

While these days we all yearn to return to some semblance of normal life, most aren’t going to feel comfortable returning to concerts, sporting events and the like for several months after the pandemic has subsided. The reluctance largely has to do with screening methods that, while necessary and welcome, create lines and crowding that are unacceptable to large swaths of would-be event attendees.

This is one finding from a survey of more than 500 people who attended a concert, sporting event or other live, ticketed event in 2019. Conducted by The Harris Poll in mid-Sept. through early October 2020, the survey made it clear attendees want to see both adequate COVID-related measures in place as well as traditional safety precautions such as metal detectors – but without the lines. It’s a result that should have sports teams, event producers and venue facility managers looking for new ways to make attendees feel comfortable with screening processes while greatly increasing their efficiency and effectiveness.

Social distancing is top of mind

Survey respondents made clear they’re more comfortable returning to events such as conferences, workshops and conventions where social distancing is more easily accomplished and enforced. On average, respondents said they’d be comfortable attending such events within two to three months after federal, state and local restrictions allow (see Figure 1). For events that are generally more crowded, like concerts and sporting events, the median was four to six months.

Figure 1

That finding is consistent with The Harris Poll’s ongoing COVID-19 Tracker surveys, said Erica Parker, Managing Director at The Harris Poll, who recently joined me for a webinar to go over the results.

“It’s clear from that kind of data that it’s a bigger lift to get people to ticketed events,” as compared to dining at a restaurant or returning to the office, she said. “Venue and facility managers are going to need to do some work to restore public confidence and get people back and feeling comfortable doing these activities.”

Part of the issue is, unlike some workers and school-aged children, consumers have the luxury of simply opting not to go to events. They can also be choosier about the protocols in place before they’re willing to return.

Safety concerns run deeper than COVID

What’s more, it’s not just COVID-19 that has folks concerned. While 81% of survey respondents said they are concerned or very concerned about the pandemic, other issues garner the same or even more concern:

  • Mass shootings: 83% concerned or very concerned
  • Street crime – 82%
  • Protest-related civil unrest/violence – 81%
  • Terrorism – 72%

81% of event attendees are concerned about COVID-19 but even more are concerned about mass shootings (83%) and street crime (82%).

Nearly three-quarters of respondents (71%) believe crime has increased over the past year. In the Midwest, the figure is 79% vs. 63% in the South. Residents in rural areas are likewise more likely to think crime is on the rise, 82% vs. 62% for suburbanites.

All this adds up to 69% of respondents believing the risk of violence in public spaces is higher than it was a year ago. Nearly 3 in 10 respondents (28%) say it’s unsafe to go out in public. That’s especially true in the Northeast (35%) but far less so in the Midwest (18%).

69% of respondents think the risk of violence in public spaces is higher than a year ago. Nearly 3 in 10 say it’s unsafe to go out in public.

Against that backdrop, it’s not hard to understand why 79% of survey respondents either agree or strongly agree that screening makes them feel more comfortable at events. This is the case even though they cite numerous problems with traditional screening measures, from lines that slow the process and make social distancing impossible to relying on fallible human intervention (see Figure 2).

Figure 2

On the other hand, respondents clearly appreciate efforts to make screening safer and more efficient post-pandemic. Asked how likely they are to return to a venue that has various features in place, 86% said they were somewhat or strongly likely to visit venues that have hand sanitizer stations and touchless screening in place along with plexiglass shields (85%). Other desirable features include:

  • Walk-through body temperature measurements: 84%
  • Social distancing floor markings: 84%
  • Mandatory face masks: 81%
  • Handheld thermometer checks: 79%

Protecting venues

Traditional metal detector screens, which require attendees to empty their bags and pockets, and potentially be subject to a pat-down, still induce more positive than negative feelings. But the negatives are significant.

Asked how this type of screening would make them feel, 75% said “calm” but nearly a third (32%) said “anxious.” And while 73% said it would make them “confident,” more than one in five (21%) said they’d be “fearful.” Nearly three-quarters (74%) said the screening would make them feel “satisfied” but 30% said they’d be “irritated.” Anxious, fearful and irritated is no way to enjoy an event.

Respondents were also asked what risks they would be willing to accept during a mid-pandemic screening process. The answers point to more challenges for venue operators and managers, as attendees will not tolerate use of outdated technology (61%), slow or inefficient screening processes (58%), false positives, meaning mistaking a harmless item for a weapon (52%), and even the possibility of human error (50%). 

Perhaps most telling, nearly two-thirds of respondents (63%) said they would simply not join a line in which people were not socially distancing. Think about that: it means someone has a ticket to an event, gets to the venue, sees a line that violates social distancing guidelines and decides to forego the event.

“When you think about the intersection of COVID and metal detector screening, and the fact that it can create long security lines, [event attendees are] not interested in that,” The Harris Poll’s Parker said. Newer technology can make a difference, though. “We find that 87% are likely to return to facilities and venues if there was a touchless security screening,” she said.

The vast majority of respondents (87%) say they are likely to return to facilities and venues if touchless security screening is in place.

That makes sense because newer touchless security screening systems create an altogether different experience. There’s no need to empty pockets, because the system can detect items that are in your pockets and differentiate, say, a gun from a metal keychain or phone. By the same token, you can carry bags through the screening system; there’s no need to empty them out. The systems are reliable enough that there are far fewer false positives, which means there’s almost no need for pat-downs.

All of these attributes contribute to another big advantage of touchless systems: they’re much faster. Evolv Express, for example, uses artificial intelligence and advanced sensors to screen up to 3,600 people per hour, about 10 times faster than legacy metal detectors.

New workplace requirements

The Harris Poll makes clear that while COVID-19 is a top concern for event attendees, their physical safety is just as important. But given the COVID requirements for social distancing, it’s equally clear that we need to investigate new ways to keep attendees safe and secure.

Consumers will appreciate facilities that implement a touchless approach, given 79% agreed that knowing everyone is screened upon entering a venue makes them more comfortable. And nearly three quarters (74%) agreed that metal detection systems make it impossible to socially distance while in line.

With a system like Evolv Express, you can get ahead of the curve and ensure potential attendees you value their safety, putting them more at ease – and more likely to attend your events. Click here to learn more.

Watch Digital Threshold Live Episode 3 here:

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Digital Threshold News: Episode 5 – Resilience is a Competitive Necessity: Learnings from 2020 and Considerations for 2021

2020 was a year of learning for security and risk practitioners, in fact, the blueprints they started the year with quickly became obsolete. At the end of the year, it’s time to look back on what the industry learned and what 2021 will bring with the final episode of the year of Digital Threshold Live.

Host Anil Chitkara, Evolv Technology Co-founder and Head of Corporate Development, welcomed two guests from Teneo, a global CEO consulting and advisory firm, Courtney Adante, President and Security Risk Advisor, and Jonathan Wackrow, Managing Director and Global Head of Security. Adante and Wackrow shared what they learned during this unexpected year and how that will shape risk and security postures in 2021. 

2020: New and Emerging Risk Required Agility and Creative Solutions

No matter what industry, size, or level of success, most organizations were not prepared for a pandemic. Even when more information about COVID-19 became available, and there were shifts in work, Adante commented, “We were building solutions on the fly. This mode of operating will likely continue into 2021.”

Wackrow agreed, “Everyone has a plan until they’re punched in the face, and everyone got punched in the face. Those that have been successful, identified threats with the virus and pivoted quickly with a model of resilience and flexibility.”

COVID-19 wasn’t the only risk in 2020. Civil unrest around social and criminal justice reform, a faltering economy, rising crime rates, mental health issues, cyber-attacks, and natural disasters also commanded attention in 2020. Those same challenges will carry into 2021. 

How Do Organizations Move Forward with Risk Management?

Adante and Wackrow discussed risk monitoring and intelligence, and their importance. They are leveraging data analysis and expert critiques to add context while concurrently teaching their clients how to do this.  

Wackrow said, “In thinking about threat domains and how they impact your organization, it’s not only about consequences and severity, but how are you going to respond? You don’t want to be in a reactive model.”

A New Domain for Security: Health Security

In the realm of security, prior to a pandemic, the branches were physical and cyber. Now companies realize that health security also has to be part of that conversation. It becomes a new pillar requiring subject matter expertise, and is not something traditionally part of the security component. “We’re seeing hiring of chief medical officers outside of healthcare, in airlines and real estate developers. Businesses are now prioritizing this expertise,” Adante added. 

This new part of security is changing the role of the Chief Security Officer (CSO).

The New CSO

Traditionally, a CSO has been about gates, guards, and guns. 2020 has disrupted this idea, and the role will never be the same. The CSO has three areas now: physical, cyber, and health. The CSO isn’t necessarily the expert on all these things, so that’s causing three shifts.

First, CSOs will have to think about risk management and strategy, along with its alignment with business operations and strategy. 

Second, they’ll need to form collaborative relationships with leaders in HR, information security, and operations. 

Third, there are now new issues on the plate, with physical locations mostly being empty. “New issues in security are now part of the story with the ‘work-from-home’ model. Those aren’t going away and may become bigger,” Adante said. 

Resiliency: What Does That Mean in 2021?

The last question for security and risk leaders is to think about what resiliency means in 2021. It’s not about business continuity. Most businesses had those before the pandemic. They were very IT-focused. Companies need to integrate the three pillars of security — physical, cyber, and health to create a more sustainable version of resiliency. 

Get More Insights from the Experts

To view our OnDemand version of Episode 5, click here or the video below:

Too busy to sit in front of your laptop and watch these webcasts? We now offer these as a podcast. The Digital Threshold Podcast series is available on Apple, Google or Spotify.

 

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Evolv Express™ vs. the Traditional Metal Detector


By: Julie Zomar, Director of Marketing, Evolv Technology

In today’s era of viral violence, we should no longer be screening with yesterday’s technology.  Manual inspections, hand wands and traditional metal detectors are slow, invasive, inefficient, involve too many nuisance alarms and create long lines, forcing venues to choose between safety and the visitor experience. 

Did you know, some venues are actually opting not to implement any security at all because they’d rather not make the trade-off between safety and visitor experience?  This can’t be the choice you make.   

Deploying screening technology in your venue is no longer something you and your team should dread or delay. With Evolv Express™, the first-of-its-kind free-flow weapons-detection system, visitors and employees walk through while simultaneously being screened for potential threats.

Through the power of AI, Express instantly differentiates threats from personal items such as keys, coins, belts and cell phones, making it easy for guards and frictionless for visitors. In fact, visitors no longer need to stop, empty pockets or remove bags.  They simply walk right through at a natural pace one-at-a-time or in groups.  It’s the fastest weapons-screening product on the market, screening 60 people every minute.  That’s 3,600 people per hour – 10X faster than a traditional metal detector.

This two-lane system is approximately 11 feet wide and requires far fewer guards than traditional metal detectors to manage. In fact, some venues are seeing a 70% reduction in labor costs

For those of you accustomed to traditional metal detectors, it’s going to be a positive shock…

  • You no longer need a large footprint for security equipment
  • Long, frustrating security screening lines will no longer form outside your venue
  • Guards will now be able to conduct targeted searches using image-aided alarms
  • And, your labor costs will decrease by up to 70%

Finally, venues can stop threats, while assuring a welcoming visitor and employee experience.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Express-vs-WTMD-800-ppl-per-hr-1024x476.png

If at 800 people per hour, you need 50% less screening equipment, and 60% fewer guards, imagine what your coop would look like as your visitor throughput needs increase. Download our full infographic to see what screening 1200, 1600, 2400 and 3600 people per hour would look like with Evolv Express versus traditional metal detectors.

Celebrating July 4th Should Be Fun AND Safe

Holidays and celebrations bring people together — but in doing so, create “soft targets”, i.e. locations and venues that people gather that aren’t closely or heavily monitored and protected.

Examples of large, well-known holiday gatherings include Rockefeller Center around Christmastime, the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade in Boston, and the New Year’s Eve fireworks show at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, Florida.

Since we know that attackers are increasingly targeting public venues and large-scale gatherings, as security professionals, we have an opportunity to transform the way we approach security to meet this evolving threat landscape.

July 4th is a Soft Target

With one of the most popular holidays in America right around the corner, it’s important to recognize the myriad ways we create soft targets during the fourth of July. Whether the Boston Pops July 4th Firework Spectacular, a community concert, or workplace barbeque, massive amounts of people are planning to come together in celebration across the country.

On a day intended to celebrate freedom, one of the last things venues want to do is burden guests with onerous security measures. However, allowing these large gatherings to go unprotected is a sure way to create a soft target and open yourself up to an attack.

Protecting Holiday Celebrations

Here are several proactive best practices that your venue – outdoor or indoor – can take to protect your staff and guests this 4th of July.

1. Collaborate with Law Enforcement

In the event of an attack, local law enforcement is essential to mitigating damage and protecting guests. Your venue security, law enforcement (e.g. police, fire department, etc.), and venue staff should all be introduced prior to an event. Establishing relationships between these is key to fast, streamlined emergency response.

2. Perform a Security Threat Assessment

In light of recent active shooter and bomb incidents, performing a security threat assessment and establishing specific response protocols will help safeguard your staff and guests.

In partnership with local law enforcement, walk the perimeter and identify all entry and exit points. Determine if you are able to lock down the event – and if so, identify what it will take to quickly make that happen without letting unwanted persons in, or a person of interest to escape.

It’s good to ask yourself these questions while performing your assessment:

  • Where are the gaps in our security?
    • Do we have enough perimeter control measures? (i.e. gates, security personnel, signage, etc.)
    • Do we have screening systems in place to identify persons of interest and detect threats?
  • What will we do if a threat is identified?
    • How do we physically lock down the event?
    • Will communicating to all security personnel and law enforcement be easy?
    • How easy will it be for law enforcement to enter the venue/event?
    • Where should local law enforcement be placed for rapid response?
    • Do we have proper evacuation signage for event attendees?
    • If an incident occurs, and exiting the event is not an option, do we have adequate areas for attendees to take shelter?

3. Build Emergency Response Plans & Procedures

Upon performing your security threat assessment with local law enforcement and your security staff, you will want to work together to determine safety plans and procedures in the case of an attack.

Think about including the following:

  • An emergency response & communications plan – to ensure all staff and local law enforcement know what to do and are notified immediately
  • A bomb threat plan – to manage bomb threat calls and know what to do if you locate a suspicious object
  • An evacuation plan – with venue layout and evacuation routes

4. Incorporate Visual Deterrents

While creating plans and procedures, as well as highlighting evacuation routes, are an important and necessary process to ensure you are prepared, there are a few ways to keep yourself left of boom/bang.

Notifying guests that there are screening solutions upon entrance has actually proven to prevent attackers from entering or even targeting a venue. For example, the Orlando nightclub shooting that took place in 2016 was actually intended for Disney World’s shopping and entertainment complex, however the shooter became spooked by police that were on-site and instead chose the night club as his target.

Thus, maintaining a strong security presence can deter attackers from executing their plans and simultaneously show guests they’re being protected. Whether you implement visible cameras, strategically place security guards and police on horseback, add signage identifying items guests are prohibited from carrying into the venue, or simply alert guests that they’ll be subject to screening, there are numerous ways to show an attacker that the venue is prepared to deter an attack. 

As Americans look forward to sporting red, white and blue, you and your staff need to be prepared for potential attacks on your celebrations. For more resources on protecting mass gatherings, the Department of Homeland Security provides several steps venues can take to strengthen security posture. And, for future events, consider implementing next generation weapons-sensing technology to efficiently identify threats and improve your guests’ experience.

Looking to learn more about how to protect a soft target? Read our blog “Relying on 100-Year-Old Technology is Not the Answer to Stop Today’s Active Shooter.”

Improving event security and the guest experience: Perspectives on screening from the executive protection industry

Hand Held Metal Detector

By Mike Ellenbogen and Christian West

In this blog, guest blogger Christian West of AS Solution and Mike Ellenbogen zoom in on the executive protection industry’s perspective on security screening for events. The goal is effective security for the principal and others – without compromising the guest experience. 

Executive protection practitioners have a wholly unique perspective that differs from many others who use screening devices, including security providers at airports, sports arenas, and other facilities open to the general public. 

Since they protect individuals, most often corporate leaders or high net worth individuals, the focus of private sector executive protection companies is naturally narrower than those who provide security for an entire stadium or office building. And when providing risk mitigation services for events large and small, as AS Solution also does, corporate clients expect security services to positively reflect brand values and contribute to a positive guest experience – not become a hassle for participants or a potential embarrassment for the corporate hosts. 

Knowing when to blend in and when to stand out: It’s different in the private sector

It’s no secret that no one (and no thing) gets near the president of the United States without effective security screening. Entire sections of major cities are shut down to safeguard the presidential motorcade when he’s in town. We’re accustomed to seeing a variety of men in black near POTUS when he is out and about. When World Cup host Russia’s Vladimir Putin gifted President Donald Trump with a soccer ball during a 2018 press conference, it, too, was screened as routine. 

But even though many outside the executive protection industry associate close protection with the president’s Secret Service coverage or celebrities surrounded by burly bodyguards, the protective reality in the corporate and high net worth segments is different. 

Here, clients place a premium on customized protective services that are in harmony with the principal’s personal preferences and corporate culture – not only best protective practices. Clients want protection, of course, but they often want it to be as unobtrusive as possible. Unlike the high-profile people they protect, executive protection practitioners are normally quite happy that no one notices them at all: they need to know when to blend in (usually) and when to stand out (only as necessary). 

They feel the same way about screening devices at events. Few corporate or high net worth clients are interested in forcing guests to line-up single file, empty their pockets, take off their belts, dump their cell phones, and walk through metal detectors – just to join a party, a product launch, or a press conference. While magnetometers and handheld wands can have their place in some circumstances, more discreet alternatives are welcome and even desirable. 

Private sector executive protection contexts that call for discreet screening 

At open-to-the-public events where a corporate or high net worth principal is present, his or her security is paramount from the executive protection perspective. But minimizing disruption and treating guests with utmost respect are also key. Similarly, at corporate events in which the principal participates, there could be dozens or hundreds of other company employees present, including venue staff, caterers, press, and more. 

Corporate colleagues and vendors don’t want to feel as if they are under suspicion – and they are not. But in the U.S., for example, the intentional or accidental presence of firearms at such events nonetheless represents a potential risk situation. While the probability of an incident in these contexts might be low, their impact on the principal and others, if something went wrong, could be very high. 

Another situation that calls for discreet screening is celebrity protection. AS Solution has also done protection for musicians on tour, which can be considered a multi-city string of events. Access to the backstage and celebrities is limited and tightly controlled, of course, but not completely restricted. Many people are involved, some better known than others. A star’s private “entourage” and guests can number dozens of people and vary from city to city. These guests of the stars don’t want to feel as if they are under suspicion, and nor do the principals or event hosts want to send such signals. But firearms are not a welcome part of any party scene.

AS Solution welcomes Evolv Edge as suitable technology for high-end executive protection

When AS Solution does Risk, Threat and Vulnerability Analyses (RTVAs) for events, the threat of a mass shooter has emerged as one of the more worrisome. Completely eliminating such threats is unfortunately not achievable, but it is possible to mitigate them. Security screening plays an important role here.

The challenge of using traditional security screening such as handheld wands and magnetometers in the kind of executive protection that AS Solution conducts is that it creates a negative guest experience. As a result, clients will often choose to opt out – even if the RTVA indicates that screening is necessary – rather than subject guests to the inconveniences and implied suspicion with which such tools are often associated. While this is an acceptable tradeoff in some circumstances, in others it is not.

Evolv Edge enables AS Solution to mitigate the risk of firearms and explosives at events with far less impact on the guest experience; AS Solution expects corporate and high net worth clients to be more amenable to such mitigation than previously available alternatives. The Evolv Edge provides a superior walk-through experience with multi-sensor technology that detects both metallic and non-metallic threats while eliminating the hassle of divesting every-day items and a need to “stop and pose.” 

With enhanced security and a vastly improved guest experience, AS Solution is excited to partner with Evolv Technology to deliver high-end executive protection and event security.

This blog was cowritten by Mike Ellenbogen of Evolv Technology and Christian West of AS Solution, and also appears on https://assolution.com/blog/improving-event-security-and-the-guest-experience-perspectives-on-screening-from-the-executive-protection-industry/