A recommendation for event and venue managers
Events are an easy target for terrorist attacks. Extremists have shifted their focus from embassies, army bases or planes towards nightclubs, arenas and public open spaces. Choosing “lifestyle” targets guarantees a broader media coverage and the spread of ideas promoted by terrorists. We can see examples of this trend from recent years: attacks have occurred in at the Louvre museum in France or the Christmas market terrorist attack in Berlin.
Such an event was the Ariana Grande’s Manchester arena concert, where in 2017 22 people, including children, have been killed and 59 injured in a suicide bombing at a crowded, the most deadly attack in Britain in a decade. It is estimated that in the aftermaths of the tragic event more than 800 have deep psychological and/ or physical traumas. Could this have been prevented and how do we, as event managers, guarantee the security of all attendants?
This terrorist attack has sparked the conversation about how to improve security measures and implement consistent anti-terrorist measures across all events and venues in the UK. Figen Murray is the mother of one of Manchester Arena’s bombing victims: the 22-year-old Martyn Hett who never came home after the concert. Now Murray is striving to create a lasting legacy for her son, by trying to implement a piece of legislation representing a common standard of counter terrorism precautions, called Martyn’s law.
Martyn’s law has the support of Mayor of Manchester, the Prime Minister, Home Secretary and Security Minister. The proposal has gained the attention of national and international event professionals, being one of the main educational sessions at the 2020 International Confex exhibition for event organisers. Murray and former National Counter-Terrorism Co-ordinator Nick Aldworth had the chance to discuss the importance of venue security during their panel.
What does the law include and how can it be implemented?
Martyn’s law consists of five requirements:
- A requirement that spaces and places to which the public have access engage with freely available counter-terrorism advice and training.
- A requirement for those places to conduct vulnerability assessments of their operating places and spaces.
- A requirement for those places to mitigate the risks created by the vulnerabilities.
- A requirement for those places to have a counter-terrorism plan.
- A requirement for local authorities to plan for the threat of terrorism.
It all comes down to money, as these measures could be implemented by including increased physical security, training, incident response plans and exercises for staff on what to do during an attack. But even though it may be expensive to implement,
“this legislation has the potential to make a significant impact on public security, improving the situation for people as they go about their daily lives” says Matt Maer, director of security and resilience at Canary Wharf Group.
In order for this legislation to be successfully implemented, the Government would need to keep an eye on security fees, as when demand increases pricing increases as well. Charging higher fees for security for major events can negatively impact event organisers. Unexpected costs can make the implementation of Martyn’s law principles difficult and unattainable.
When can Martyn’s law be implemented?
There is no timetable set by the Government yet, but event organisers can be proactive with their attitude towards implementing Martyn’s law. The first thing that Murray urges to be implemented is having tougher ‘airport-style’ security checks that could be introduced at public venues. Although this measure sounds logical, this can result into long queues outside the venue, making the group of people an easy target. Because of that venues need to have sufficient staff and training in order to do the search in a timely manner. Security employees at some arenas and stadiums have already operating this way and this has to be an example for all other event venues.
Manchester City Council in the absence of a mandated legislation would implement Martyn’s law principles through tighter licensing criteria for venues. All venues have a risk assessment, which includes health and safety regulations and an emergency plan, but most of them lack a plan for terrorist attacks. So, the first thing that a venue manager would need to do is to fill out this gap and provide the necessary training to their staff. The event organiser on the other hand would need to make sure that the venue that they hire has the necessary papers to prove that a training has taken place.
Event organisers, just like Murray, also acknowledge the need to develop and implement coherent training for event professionals, that is not only standardised but also effective. Event professionals recognise the need to increase their understanding and share that this knowledge hasn’t been embedded into their training. The solution for this is for event organisers to work hand in hand with institutions such as universities or councils that can provide adequate education and training.
What measures are you implementing when preparing for an event?