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A homecoming to remember.

In the fall of 1990, at a small rural university, what should have been a carefree homecoming concert and dance turned into a panic-driven free-for-all that ended with a forced evacuation of the 3,000 attendees and left 18 people injured.

The incident was triggered by a security officer's overreaction to a fight that broke out between several students attending the dance. Poor planning and lack of communication between the university's own command and control and a contracting agency exacerbated the problem, as did congestion--the 3,000-person crowd was crammed into a gym that had a maximum capacity of 2,700.

Clearing the gym did not solve the problem. Two hours later a riot erupted, requiring the assistance of more than 200 state troopers. The night ended at 5:00 am, leaving in its wake shell-shocked students and a university in the center of a crisis with serious image and liability problems.The media nightmare did not end for weeks, and the liability issues took more than a year to settle.

What happened? Why and how could it have been prevented? These are questions that need to be addressed if we, as security directors, planners, and coordinators, are to have any success in preventing similar events.

The university referred to in the situation described above, aware of past problems and its own shortage of personnel, had hired a firm with expertise in special event security to work with the school for the homecoming affair.

Responsibilities for the homecoming's security were then assigned according to the requests set forth by the contracting agency. The agency was responsible for coordinating protection inside the gym, and campus security personnel were assigned to the perimeter doors and main campus.

Fifteen contract personnel and six university officers were assigned to the event. But there were problems from the beginning in coordinating the two groups. The contract agency informed the university about specific measures that needed to be taken to prevent any crises from occurring. These precautions would ensure that the overall event operated smoothly. The campus police chief agreed to implement these measures but did not follow through.

The contract agency proceeded to gather information necessary for developing a protection plan. The site was surveyed, diagrams were drawn, an operational plan was outlined, and personnel were assigned. After the planning was completed, a two-and-one-half hour briefing on the implementation of the plan was held with all contracted officers.

The problem was that university officers did not receive a briefing from the university's police chief. The only instructions they received were their post assignments. Responsibilities were not defined, contingency plans were not communicated, and a basic review of the threat or risk assessment of the situation was not discussed.

IN MY YEARS OF PLANNING SECURITY AND safety for high-risk situations, I have observed that many clients pay little attention to contingency planning and to the liabilities and ramifications involved in a special event.

Another aspect of special event planning that is usually overlooked is the media or public relations impact on an organization if a crisis evolves. The amount of business losses must be considered in terms of dollars, including the long-term cost of lawsuits and bad publicity. Every dollar spent planning saves at least 10 times every dollar invested. Executives should think in terms of buying prevention rather than reaction services.

The following elements help establish the appropriate planning and execution of a security and safety program for special events in a campus setting. Many of these elements can be applied to any special event.

Communication. The first element is to establish solid communication channels between the following departments: campus maintenance, student activities, student affairs, facilities management, student union association, gym activities, contract security services, public relations and, most important, the command and control structure in the public safety department.

Volunteers. Through the student activity office, a list of volunteers can be compiled to assist during the event. Volunteers, if organized, can be a cost-effective resource in special-events activities that require minimal supervision and capabilities. They should, however, never be used in positions or areas that carry strong responsibility or liability. If an incident occurred, the university would be vulnerable to a lawsuit.

Ticket sales. To ensure a communication link with visitors, security policies should be clearly marked on tickets. These policies might include that metal detectors are used, that visitors must register at the security office, or that management reserves the right to refuse entry.

Tickets should be presold and limited to the building capacity allotment established by the local or state fire marshal. Tickets should also be audited by the public safety department.

By ensuring that tickets are torn at the door, security personnel and ticket takers can prevent ticket resale, thus, maintaining compliance with capacity restrictions.

Time of events. If the event is a concert or dance that takes place during the evening and continues into the early hours of the morning and includes alcoholic beverages, the security and safety department should consider an unadvertised, unofficial extension of the event itself.

For example, if the special event is a dance scheduled from 9:00 pm to 2:00 am, an extension should be granted to 5:00 am. By extending the hours, the crowd can dissipate gradually. By providing attendees an opportunity to leave at their own will, potential confrontations with security forces are avoided.

Campus security. The safety department must first ensure that the security and safety of the campus is not compromised. Security on the main campus should be increased to meet the increased number of visitors during a special event.

Areas of concern include dormitories and parking lots. Security patrols should be increased throughout the entire campus community. Personnel should also be increased in the dispatch and communication center and parking facility.

Ratios. To ensure the security and safety of attendees and to ensure that security personnel are able to deal with a crisis, a ratio must be established between security and visitors.

For example, during a concert or dance, a good minimum ratio for officers assigned to the area is one officer for every 100 visitors (1:100). This does not include front stage personnel.

Other ratios to take into consideration are emergency medical technicians (EMTs) to visitors (1:750), command post personnel to officers (1:10), parking personnel to the number of spaces (1:200), traffic officers to intersections (1:1). Without these minimum ratios, security and safety personnel cannot adequately cope with a crisis situation.

Traffic and parking. A major problem with an increase in campus population is the demand for traffic control and parking. Arrangements must be made to meet the increase in vehicular traffic. Extra spaces must be found and proper traffic patterns established.

Many actions can be taken to assist in easing traffic problems, from barricading streets and creating one-way roads to having the appropriate ratio of traffic and parking personnel to the number of spaces.

Officers on traffic duty should have the proper resources at their disposal, such as reflective vests that clearly identify police or security personnel, flashlights, whistles, road flares, and traffic cones. Other accessories, such as clearly marked directional signs and a police or security vehicle with its overhead lights on, also enhance officers' effectiveness.

To ensure maximum proficiency, personnel assigned to traffic control should be trained in the proper methods to be used. Contracting a security service that is experienced in handling these matters is a cost-effective answer.

Crowd control. Crowd control at large events has always been a problem for security directors. Crowd control methods and procedures must be established and security personnel must be well versed in the implementation of such tactics.

Security directors must understand crowd behavior to plan for control contingencies. When developing tactics, directors must keep in mind that a crowd always reacts as a unit; its members never react independently from one another.

Over-controlling a crowd entering the facility might limit security options when a group, under an emergency or crisis situation, attempts to evacuate. Other components that may interfere with evacuations are poor lighting, stairwells, and locked doors. If the event takes place in an indoor facility, such as a gym, a six-foot clear zone around the inside of the perimeter must be maintained for evacuation purposes.

The equipment used in roping off a clear zone must be secured so that in the event of a panic, it will not interfere with the crowd's tendency to charge toward an exit.

Security personnel formation is another important aspect of crowd control. During the scenario described earlier, security personnel formations had to be used to control large portions of the crowd that were trying to enter through the main doors. Six contract agency personnel were able to repel an assault by 50 to 60 concert goers with a V-wedge formation.

Good formation tactics are a must. Personnel must be trained to execute these formations within seconds of a crisis. Without this knowledge, personnel are ill-equipped to deal with crowds during an emergency.

Safety measures. Safety measures should be taken to ensure that equipment used during the event does not cause a crisis or impede visitors trying to evacuate the event area. By performing a safety inspection, security directors can identify the specific hazards that apply to the special event.

A gym, for example, has a number of hazards that are not always apparent. If bleachers are used during the event, they must be inspected for loose frames, bolts, clamps, and railings. In addition, bleacher corners should be padded, and a strong tape must be used to ensure that the padding remains in place.

When floor mats are used, secure them to the floor with a strong adhesive tape. Electrical wires and floor outlets should also be covered with tape.

Special measures. To protect against liability, security directors should use camcorders at the entrances and in the main area of the event to facilitate debriefings, identify crowd members, and facilitate the planning of other special events.

In addition, still photography should be used to identify and document gang members or other groups attending the event. Photographs can also be used to document injuries when they occur.

Other important measures include stand-by lighting, emergency lighting, a public address system, and ceiling or hurricane fans and air-conditioning for the main event hall to help keep attendees cool--and calm.

Medical personnel. Medical personnel must be used as part of a contingency plan for any event. Adequate medical personnel means having certified EMTs as well as CPR-trained or advanced first-aid certified security officers on hand.

In the scenario mentioned earlier, the contract agency employed three EMTs as part of its contingency resources. These EMTs maintained a triage area where 18 injured individuals were treated before the local volunteer fire department arrived nearly half an hour later.

Armed personnel. If the special event is indoors, armed personnel can be a great asset when stationed at the main doors or outside perimeters. Armed personnel should not be stationed in the main event hall. In the scenario mentioned earlier, the panic was caused by a campus police officer using mace to control three individuals involved in a physical altercation.

Most protection personnel would state that they can control the use of their weapons; however, when experiencing a fight or flight situation, they cannot guarantee their proper use. No one should run the risk of escalating a minor situation into a crisis; therefore, personnel stationed in the main event area should not be armed other than with a nightstick or mag-light.

Metal detectors. To further ensure that weapons do not create a panic situation or jeopardize the safety of individuals attending an event, metal detectors can be used.

Security directors must take into consideration the time allotments and staffing requirements needed to screen large crowds. The average amount of time for using detectors is eight visitors per minute if the detectors are handheld; walk-through units are faster.

For example, if the reception area consists of three entrances and devices are used at each entrance, personnel can screen approximately 24 to 27 individuals per minute with hand-held detectors.

Command operations. The last consideration before developing a contingency plan is the command post (CP). The CP and CP personnel should be established as near to the event area as possible. The CP should be separate from the department's main dispatch communication center and it should be set up so that its personnel are able to observe as much of the event as possible, including officers and patrons. For example, if the event takes place in a gym, the announcer's booth should be used.

The CP should contain the following components:

* a detailed grid or sector map of the event area

* radio communication with frontline personnel and main dispatch communication center

* one or two telephones

* dead bolts to secure its doors

* a list of officials who must be notified in the event of an emergency

* voice-activated radio communication recording device

* phone extension of the main communication center

The communications controller must also be stationed at the CP with the support of an assistant and a camcorder operator. At no time during the event should CP personnel leave their designated areas unless properly relieved.

Contingencies. Now an accurate contingency plan can be developed. To facilitate planning, the security director should begin with a threat or risk assessment of the special event.

Consideration should be given to the nature of the event, type of crowd attending, schedule, location, previous history of similar events, potential for hazardous situations to occur (natural or created), personnel available after appropriately securing the campus, and an evaluation of local emergency services.

Before the plan can be completed, communication must be extended to local police, the fire department, and hospitals to ensure their awareness of the event. Their response time and standby personnel are all a part of the assessment.

Another necessary consideration is the implementation of a mutual aid agreement. This type of agreement identifies the conditions under which local law enforcement personnel will respond and to whom they will report once they arrived on campus.

Once all information on outside agencies has been gathered, the plan should be completed according to the information received. Using these guidelines, confusion can be minimized and the recuperation time after a crisis can be enhanced.

The security director must carefully evaluate personnel requirements to fulfill the needs of security and safety both on campus and at the special event's location. Whether outside assistance is necessary must be determined. If personnel shortages exist and it is necessary to contract a security agency, the following factors should be evaluated:

* the agency's background experience in managing such special events

* the agency's personnel experience and training in managing crowds

* the level of personnel proficiency in de-escalating dangerous situations

* the agency's ability to provide coordinators who are capable of developing and implementing special requirements of the operation

The events that transpired during the fall of 1990 could have been minimized or avoided if the people responsible for developing the operations plan had sought out specialized help to assist in planning and implementing their plan.

Officer assignments. Once the resources have been evaluated, contingencies have been developed, and a complete threat analysis has been carried out, protection personnel must be assigned to the area where they will be most effective.

Personnel responsible for the special event should be categorized in the following manner:

* Prevention. These individuals are assigned to main doors, hallways, outside perimeters, and inner perimeters. Their sole purpose is to screen and observe patrons attending the event. Personnel assigned to metal detectors or emergency exits would be considered prevention personnel.

* Control. These individuals respond to critical situations, that is, physical altercations, fires, etc. Control personnel should be divided into incident management groups (IMGs). Each unit (minimum two officers) is assigned to a sector of the special events area.

* Crisis intervention. These individuals consist of medical officers (EMTs and basic first-aid officers). Although integrated with IMGs, they must be accounted for separately to have an accurate assessment of deployment.

* Operations and intelligence. This group includes CP personnel, advance agents, and photographers. These personnel are assigned to the CP. Photographers may be assigned to other areas of the special event.

The designations above must have an assigned coordinator. The prevention, control, and operations coordinators must report to a detail coordinator, who is responsible for overseeing the entire operation. The only category that does not receive a dedicated coordinator is the crisis intervention group; Those individuals are part of control personnel.

Once personnel have been assigned, guidelines or operational procedures for them to adhere to must be established. If they are faced with an emergency, they should follow established procedures.

Individuals must remain at their posts until properly relieved. The only campus police officer hurt during the panic described earlier was an officer who left his perimeter post to wander around the event area. When the panic occurred, the officer was stampeded down a stairwell by the crowd.

By establishing a set procedure and responsibilities, the possibility of losing control of a situation can be reduced and a level of effectiveness during and after a crisis can be maintained. These procedures should be tailored to each event and reevaluated before future events.

Briefing. To ensure that all personnel participating in the operation are properly informed, a briefing should be held. During this briefing, all individuals with security-related responsibilities are formally instructed about the requirements of the project and the measures that will be employed.

Topics covered should include personnel assignments and unit deployment, communications, post responsibilities, liaison and points of contact, operational policies, events' itinerary, threat assessment summary, support resources, and contingency plans.

In addition to an oral briefing, all personnel should be issued a written operations plan and participate in a follow-up briefing. For liability purposes, the briefing should be videotaped. This could be a valuable asset should a lawsuit occur.

Disasters occurring at special events are growing in frequency and magnitude. By implementing the measures outlined in this article, the security director, planners, and coordinators can take the necessary steps to prevent such disasters.

K. C. Poulin, CPO (certified protection officer), CPS (certified protection specialist), is the director of programs analysis and coordination for Executive Defense Systems International in Denver. He is also executive vice president of the International Society for Protection and Intelligence and adviser to the National Association of Security Personnel.
COPYRIGHT 1992 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:includes related article; security management
Author:Poulin, K.C.
Publication:Security Management
Date:Sep 1, 1992
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