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Special Event Security: Planning and Managing

In America, Europe, Asia, or elsewhere there are festivals, concerts, election rallies, sporting events, small or large gatherings, at any time of the year. Special events usually include many participants, to the tune of thousands. These participants might include politicians, civic or community groups, government bodies, social and cultural movers and shakers, business leaders, local media etc. Normally, these Special events go uneventfully and there are no problems. (Goldblatt, 1997)

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However, not all problems can be foreseen, problems can occur due to natural hazards or man-made dangers. Multiple deaths or casualties have taken place with regular consistency over a wide spectrum of countries and different types of events. For example, most of the football events taking place anywhere in the world are peaceful. Though there are reports of football fans clashing, is not uncommon. In changing world scenario and emergence of terrorism aftermath of 9/11, the world at large is not a secure place any more. In addition, these mass gathers become potential targets for terrorists as they can extract maximum mileage from such an incident. (Masterman, 2004)

In few cases, the advance assessment of planning for these events fails to occur, and even when they did, the event organizers failed to assess the scale of disaster and failed to cope with it. This is where security requirements become an essential part of Event Management. The sole purpose being to reduce response times to deal with contingencies and fatalities.

The planning includes preparedness in worst-case scenarios including ordinary crimes to petty incidents like drunken brawl. In certain cases, high profile visits of politicians or controversial figures, requires high security. So, security measures include, taking permission of the concerned authorities to federal agencies, as the case is. In addition, the fundamental and constitutional rights of the participants are also taken into consideration. Provisions for proper street closures and exit routes are also looked over. When these events occur, there should be cooperation between emergency service personnel, health professionals, and appropriate security staff to make certain that they address wellbeing, safety and security issues for the event. (Berlonghi, 1996)

There are many components for planning for a security event, like as crowd management, crisis management, law enforcement, security guards, seating and controlling of large localization of public, path flow of entry and exit of crowds, possibilities of terrorist attacks, evacuation in cases of natural calamities etc.

Crowd management is the effort exerted by usher, ticket takers, group security, medical teams and facility managers to provide safety and security for the people attending the special event.

Crowd management must first categorize the event type like circus, election, sporting, theatrical, concert, public meeting, procession etc, and then make out the distinctiveness of each event based on capability and character of the crowd, methods of entry, communications and queuing. (Sennewald, 2003)

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Crowd types can be ambulatory, disability/limited, movement cohesive, expressive, participatory, aggressive/hostile, demonstrator, escape/trampling, dense/suffocating, rushing/looting or violent. Crowd composition also needs to be taken into account. They can be organized behavior, leadership, cohesiveness, unity of purpose, common motive for action, psychological unity, emotional intensity, volatility, individual behavior, group behavior, degree of lawlessness, level of violence, level of property damage etc. Facility management should be aware of the behavior of the crowd. Problems not only can arise from the attendees but also from a crowd from outside, environmental disaster, rumor etc.

In addition, one more critical point is defining the responsibilities of the parties concerned in organizing the event, intelligence available and resources available. Parties concerned in the context means local government, Police, Fire department, Facility managers, show promoters, private security, peer security, patrons etc. (Sennewald, 2003)

Law enforcement in crowd control is essential, and it is necessary that the fundamental and constitutional rights of the participants be also taken care of. From leadership authority structure, legal authority of assisting agencies, facility management organization structure needs to be understood and their defining role in the process. Proper law enforcing authority should gather intelligence in case of high profile attendees. Therefore, phone numbers or contact numbers should be at hand before event. (Masterman, 2004)

Facility management organizations has to ascertain the type of security to be provided and the scope of the security in the event. It includes the jurisdiction of the security services. Providing security services and the arranging event are vital to public safety, particularly within the event. Essentially three types of security can be provided at large public events. These are:

  1. Peer security – It consists of security roughly of the age of the participants, like that in rock concerts. Usually unarmed and concentrates on rough crowd behavior.
  2. Private uniformed security guards – They are usually suited in places where participants are submissive and expectedly less violent. They are cheap compared to uniformed police and often involved in places like ticket checking, parking cars and possess less confrontational roles.
  3. Uniformed police officers – They perform duties like in traffic control, in-house event protection to private workers employed by the event organization agency. Usually one police officer is needed per 1,000 spectators, which consist of families or participants that are more docile. For more dynamic crowd two police officers are needed every 1,000 spectators. In special cases, with history of volatility numbers can vary. (Wagen, 2004)

The composition of all three security forces required services will vary according to the type of event.

Most special events need seating other than those provided by the venue. This event seating policy is often dictated by the type of the event. This seating arrangement can be a useful tool for the event organizers to segregate the type of people attending the event and localizing them will help security staff to control the particular section rather than the entire crowd. For example, seating fans of opposite teams of a football club will help control them. There can be different seating for disabled, with easy access to exit routes, as in emergencies disabled are the top priority for rescue. This also includes path flow of the entry and exit plans, for suitable and incident free entry and exit. (Sennewald, 2003)

In a special event, there can be many different type of crises arising. They can typically be of types such as fires, explosions, natural disasters, opposite fans violence. Alternatively, it can be due to small group creating trouble. At worse “One of a Kind” Crisis, for which perhaps no body can ever be prepared. Here the work of the crisis management starts whose job is primarily to minimize injury or loss of life. Crisis management includes ability to assess the situation from inside as well as outside, procedures to direct actions in an event, improved awareness among facility management staff, better management of small incident before they spiral out of control, compliance of regulatory and ethical bodies, better work flow management like workflow of evacuating a victim from the event to hospital etc. (Wagen, 2004)

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Terrorism is a real possibility after math 9/11. In event of terror attack, the leading agency in the country, like in U.S. FBI, and the local police needs to be involved. The facility management should plan along with local, state and country jurisdiction, in pre-incident planning and threat forecasting.

In a disaster situation, like natural disasters, the responsibility of the facility managers is to plan in advance and define responsibilities for conduct and control of evacuation, prescribe priorities for evacuation, establish hazard free assembly areas, prescribe evacuation routes. It should provide timely and effective warning of the need to evacuate, provide transport for evacuees and their personal items, safely and efficiently conduct an evacuation and secure the evacuation area. (Wagen, 2004)

Standard Operating Procedures for evacuation are Abandon, Withdraw and Evacuate. Abandonment here means the facility management organization should immediate ask the participants to leave their equipment or materials, and not attempt to secure valuables. Then they along with the participants should withdraw from the structure. Finally evacuate to safer places deemed secure and hazard free. During the whole process it should be taken care that entire procedure from abandoning to evacuating should take place as per the protocol laid down in advance. So that evacuees reach the evacuation points faster and hassle free, and get required medical attention, designated at the evacuation points. Finally, it should be remembered that good planning and managing in advance, even in unforeseen circumstances, would reduce fatalities in the event of crisis. (Wagen, 2004)


Berlonghi, A. (1996). Special Event Security Management, Loss Prevention, and Emergency Services: The Guide for Planning and Documentation. Vancouver: Bookmasters Inc.

Goldblatt, J. (1997). Special Events: Best Practices in Modern Event Management. Ed. 2. LA: Van Nostrand Reinhold.

Masterman, G. (2004). Strategic sports event management: an international approach. London: Butterworth-Heinemann.

Sennewald, A. (2003). Effective security management. Ed. 4. New York: Elsevier.

Wagen, V. (2004). Event Management. London: Pearson/Prentice Hall.

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