Unified Response Takes Center Stage at Large Events

Unified Response Takes Center Stage at Large Events

The crush of a crowd at a concert, stadium or exhibition hall requires unique security solutions. A&S looks at the security market for large events, along with threats, solutions and integration challenges.

International events, such as the World Expo, Olympic Games or World Cup, bring great prestige and acclaim for the host country.

However, large events can also raise threats to a highly visible level. The 1972 Munich Olympic Games were marred by the deaths of 11 Israeli athletes and coaches, along with a Western German police officer. The open Olympic Village granted Palestinian kidnappers easy access, which had tragic consequences.

In light of the danger, security has become a global concern. Planning for large events takes place years in advance, to ensure sufficient manpower and equipment are in order. However, the ephemeral nature of expos or events limits the amount of security spending. The 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics ended and left behind hundreds of surveillance cameras, which had to find new homes. The limited ROI squeezes security equipment budgets for events.

Even busy exhibition halls sit idle for periods of time, which limits the need for real-time connectivity. IP solutions have yet to make inroads at most venues, except for new exhibition halls. However, interoperability remains an issue, making true convergence rare. This will only change if equipment prices fall and the threat level escalates.

Large events and venues bring people together. Security ensures these gatherings take place with the least danger to assets and human lives.

Global sporting events, exhibitions, summits and concerts all gather enormous crowds with a common interest. This shared enthusiasm may attract hostile attackers keen on inflicting maximum casualties at densely packed venues. Emotions also run high at athletic competitions, such as the FIFA World Cup, which require various measures to keep fans orderly.

There are alternatives to large events, with Web and videoconferencing technologies maturing by leaps and bounds. However, the rush of watching a game live or shaking a client's hand cannot compare to interacting with a monitor. This makes attending a large event an unparalleled experience.

Events worldwide come with a high price tag. "Large events security constitutes 5 percent of global homeland security market spending to around US$5.5 billion and depends mainly on the large-scale sporting events and summits," said Amartya De, Consultant for Aerospace and Defense, Frost & Sullivan. "High spending dominates the years preceding the events such as the FIFA World Cup or Olympics. As a result, it is not surprising that defense contractors, manufacturers and private security firms are geared up years before the event pursuing these opportunities."

The 2010 World Cup kicks off this month in South Africa. Event organizers have invested more than $146 million in security, which includes $71.7 million to deploy 41,000 police officers and $74.5 million on equipment and services, De said. The equipment includes airborne surveillance drones, bomb disposal devices and mobile command centers to monitor live footage from the drones and on-site cameras.

India is on high alert for the October Commonwealth Games. "In the wake of the Mumbai attacks which happened in 2008, the Indian government is now spending more than $20 million on purchasing security equipment alone — including X-ray scanners, doorframe and handheld metal detectors, communication systems and CBRN equipment — for the Commonwealth Games in October," De said.

Crowds are easy targets for deliberate attack. Three major categories of human-originated threats are mass chaos, terrorism and criminal public endangerment, said Terence Lee, Director of Product Management for APAC, Ingersoll Rand Security Technologies.

Grim history highlights the reality of violence. "The prominent mishaps in the past have been the 1972 Munich massacre and the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Park bombing," De said. "Modern-day threats come in various forms, from armed gangs barging into the event, to explosives being set up at prominent crowded venues of the event or terrorists carrying explosives into the event."

"As these venues often house global forums and have high concentrations of foot traffic, the obvious threat — be it real or perceived — is an act of domestic or international malicious attacks," said Sheilagh Hannah, Business Development and Marketing Director for ADT Security. Event casualties are tragic, but mercifully rare. Mundane threats affect large events more, including theft, unauthorized access and public safety.

The risk of pilfering increases with foot traffic. "Threats include pickpockets during the day among the large crowds and the theft of exhibition elements outside exhibition hours," said Dave Jansen, Business Development Manager of Bosch Security Systems.

Exhibition halls enable exhibitors to display their products or services, which are often valuable. "During the exhibition, the aim is to be as inviting as possible and attract visitors to the booth," Jansen said. However, when the exhibition ends, there is no supervision of the booth. This increases the risk of theft for products or solutions.

The venue's security team plays a major role in securing exhibitor assets. "The security of our guests' property is very important to us," said Uwe Behm, Member of the Board of Management of Messe Frankfurt, the parent company of the publisher of A&S. Messe Frankfurt operates an exhibition venue in Frankfurt and hosts events worldwide.

The Frankfurt venue spans 11 halls, making it one of the world's most sprawling exhibition grounds. "Our external security specialists monitor the exhibition halls during the setup and dismantling periods, as well as during our own large events," Behm said.

"The role of these external service providers is to prevent theft, and to help investigate and catch any perpetrators when such incidents do occur. While it is obviously impossible to monitor every inch of a venue this size without prohibitive expenditure, theft is not a serious problem here in Frankfurt."

All-Access Pass
As some events have limited access or prohibitive prices, counterfeit passes are an issue. For the 2008 Beijing Olympics, tickets were embedded with RFID to speed up entry and reduce pirated tickets, De said.

Managing guests can mitigate some threats. "Events face the unique challenge of trying to marry security with easy accessibility to attract people to the venue," said Charles Balcomb, MD of Databac. "Access control goes hand in hand with identification. In this post-9/11 world, positive ID of exhibitors, contractors and delegates is imperative."

Locating delegates in a large venue helps during emergencies such as fires, Balcomb said. "The ability to produce an instant list indicating the whereabouts of people present helps rescue personnel carry out their job more quickly and effectively, potentially saving lives."

Clear identification can save time. "The No. 1 threat is poor capacity to manage visitors during a large event," said Cyrille Volentier, Area Sales Manager for Evolis. "This results in endless and time-consuming queues, as well as frustrated visitors and exhibitors."

Long lines not only make people unhappy but also present safety hazards. Visitor management solutions must limit downtime and establish access privileges. "The role of exhibition organizers is no longer confined to renting booths," Volentier said. "They have turned into true service providers who leverage technology as a key success factor for their event. They use a variety of software and equipment to manage visitors, provide access to the cafeteria, enable participants to park their cars, provide on-the-spot wireless connection whenever required, or track visitors and collect their personal data for profiling and marketing purposes."

However, passes do not always match the person they were issued to. "Accurate visitor records can be an issue, certainly in any forensic investigation," said Stuart Gilbert, Security Sales Leader for EMEA and India, Honeywell Building Solutions. "The pass may have been issued to one person based on sound criteria, but there are seldom checks on the door that the person presenting the entry badge is the person it was issued to. Due to the ‘open' nature of events, it is unlikely to see more restrictive technologies such as full body scanners being deployed, unless the threat dictates it."

Public Safety
The crush of a multitude requires thorough crowd control. "Trade fairs occasionally draw large gatherings of people, such as when stands are visited by pop stars or film stars, but we make sure that rescue and escape routes are clear and usable at all times," Behm said.

Exhibition halls are growing bigger and need to provide the best approach to life safety, Lee said. Large crowds and multiple sites present unique challenges.

Being heard in a big space is crucial during emergencies. "In large venues, clear understanding of the paging system is key," said Johannes Rietschel, founder and CEO of Barix. "Designing the system so that announcements can be heard at every single location clearly is absolutely critical. Exhibition halls are often dividable, so it is key that the audio distribution system can be dynamically reconfigured to divide into multiple zones or areas."

Venue evacuation could endanger lives. "As with any large unstructured gathering, mass panic or evacuation due to a significant incident, such as a fire or bomb, is the biggest risk to public safety," Gilbert said.

Large events face a certain degree of risk, depending on the nature of the event. A high-profile political summit attracts a different crowd compared to an athletic competition. Regardless of the event, venue operators must plan for the worst and defend visitors accordingly.

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