Four experts in the field of safety and security took to a panel Thursday to lead an IAVM webinar on Understanding the Risk & Securing Mass Gathering Events. The webinar drew a large audience of 558 listeners and later participants who had several questions to ask of panel members following the 45-minute webinar.
Much of the interest in the webinar was likely drawn from the recent terrorist attack outside the Manchester Arena in the United Kingdom, but suffice to say that safety and security are ongoing hot topics and will continue to be in a time when IAVM President/CEO Brad Mayne, CFE, pointed out that we no longer live in a “not if, but when” time, but actually now reside in the “when” regardless of our geographical location.
“The British continue to investigate whether the incident there was a lone wolf or terrorist cell,” said panelist Bill Flynn, GARDA Risk Management. “Due to the sophistication of the device it suggests the possibility of a network. He targeted two main egress points to minimize the detection and maximize the casualties.” Twenty-two were killed in the attack and dozens injured.
Flynn noted a shift from centrally coordinated attacks in homegrown situations to lone wolf attacks, citing that there were 16 homegrown violent terrorist arrests last year in the United States. Flynn added that last year 423 incidents took place domestically and internationally with close to 50 percent of those happening within 30 miles of where the attacker lived.
“No community is immune,” he said.
IAVM veteran Russ Simons, Venue Solutions Group, spoke on Threat, Risk and Vulnerability Assessments.
“Our venues have emergency plans,” he said, “but they are not revisited regularly. We underestimate the opponent’s skill, intelligence and cunning.
Simons noted that in 2015 there were more than 1,600 reported bomb threat incidents and more than 400 actual bombings that year.
“All of these assessments are critical to do,” he said. “Without doing them, you are setting yourself up for something bad to happen. And it will happen in some form or another.”
Al Shenouda, City Shield LLC, who along with Flynn has been working closely with IAVM on the Emergency Management Safety & Security Initiative (EMSSI) for convention centers, spoke about the importance of public and private partnerships to counter the foe.
“It takes a collaboration of multiple stakeholders to do information sharing,” he said. “Think of everyone as good security for soft targets.”
Andy Jabbour, Gate 15, wrapped up the webinar by striking a parallel between buying insurance and the uncertainty that venues face going forward with respect to safety and security.
“Like insurance, risk assessment can’t be ‘one and done,'” Jabbour said. “You understand the threat environment. Like insurance, you pay every month.”
Before fielding a series of questions from webinar attendees, Shenouda closed the panel comments by noting “We’ve had attacks and thwarted attacks in every state.”
Every state. It is something that should sink in for every venue manager if it has not already.