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.”

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