The one thing everybody wanted to get their hands on last month was a security pass for the Olympic Village in Sydney. You might have thought that security at the Games would have been a model of perfection.
And everything did seem to be working like clockwork until it emerged that secuity guards had been issuing replicas of teenage Aussie swimming sensation Ian Thorpe's pass to other athletes as 'souvenirs'. If you want to avoid security scares at an event, particularly if you're expecting to welcome VIPs, this kind of practice is best avoided.
Horsham-based Identilam has much experience in handling badging and ticketing for high-profile sporting events including the Rugby World Cup and Wimbledon. Sales director David Stoker suggests giving VIPs, or even key visitors to an event (such as media representatives or good customers), photo IDs not only to make sure that they are who they say they are, but that they can gain access to privileged areas. 'Even at conferences where you have to pay to get in, people buy one ticket and swap it around so it's beneficial to have a photo,' he says.
Identilam can provide many kinds of passes from neck laminates to temporary paper passes. Its special event software can design passes according to someone's level of importance, different symbols might allow access to different areas, for example. It has also developed Compic, a complementary ticketing software package which was used at the Rugby World Cup, and will be officially launched to the rest of the market this month.
But making sure the hoi polloi doesn't gain unauthorised access to privileged areas is just one part of ensuring that your event is VIP-friendly. It's always wise to consult with a specialist security firm if you are expecting notable guests to make an appearance. Sean Stone, a security consultant with Norwich-based Business and Entertainment Security, strongly advises against getting promotional staff to double up as security guards, as some event organisers do in a bid to save money.
'You'll end up with egg on your face,' Stone says. 'Promotional staff are not trained and they don't know what they're looking for. If you've got a teen hearthrob it's more a question of crowd control. You could be faced with 10,000 screaming kids and you can't handle that with six promotional staff.'
If you are expecting such high numbers it is also worth talking to companies such as Star Hire and Eve Trakway which can provide fencing, gates, and crush barriers, as celebrities are unlikely to take kindly to being trampled on by the hordes.
The level of security required will depend on the status of your celebrity, and whether or not they're happy to mix with the general public. The Event and Exhibition Partnership provides security for the Stella Artois tennis championships and not all the players want close security. 'Sometimes the players want to wander around the ground and mix in, which is nice and refreshing,' says sales and marketing director Liz Turner.
You also have to bear in mind that the general public may be put off by very overt or heavy-handed security, says Turner. 'You don't want to scare them. We offer a friendly front with a security undertone.' Turner's company not only offers trained personnel but can provide devices such as X-ray machines and walk-through metal detectors, like those found in airports. And security guards these days aren't just trained in guarding and crowd control. Securicor Guarding says a guard is no longer recruited 'for his chest size rather than his IQ', and states that its staff have a broad range of skills from the ability to speak several languages to first aid.
One of the key things to do to ensure security runs smoothly is to consult the experts as early as possible. This also gives you time to check out the credentials of the security company. There's been a lot of bad press recently concerning security firms, in particular those that provide doorstaff for pubs and clubs. Reputable firms will be able to provide portfolios and references and will operate a strict staff vetting process, which will usually stretch back as far as ten years. For further information it's worth getting in touch with the Inspectorate of the Security Industry which can offer impartial advice (see box).
High-profile celebrities and politicians, will usually have their own bodyguards with whom the event's security firm should liaise. And in some cases liaison with the local council and police may be necessary.
Welcoming VIPs may well involve a lot of extra organisation but it can do wonders for visitor numbers. 'All it takes is a few whispers and rumours that a star might be attending something and every Tom, Dick and Harry will turn up,' says Stone.
An important part of the secuity at any event, poorly designed badges can cause delays at the entrance as guards stop the flow of visitors to check them. VIP badges in particular should be difficult to copy and a photo will add an extra level of security. Registration systems range from wristbands and pin-on badges with laser printed inserts to more sophisticated laminated cards or badges incorporating bar codes, magnetic strips or even microchips.
Cost and availability: Depends on the level of sophistication and visitor numbers. For basic badges at a small- to medium-sized event you'll rarely need to budget more than pounds 200-pounds 300 but for big events which require complex software systems and sophisticated badging, costs can rise to up to pounds 250,000. Identilam can manage event registration at its own premises or provide a service on-site.
Security firms offer solutions from personal bodyguards to providing perimeter security and stewards for a whole event. Most good firms will carry out a site survey and risk assessment and will provide devices such as X-ray machines and walk-through metal detectors to supplement the manpower.
Cost and availability: The very best security guard, usually used for personal escorts, can cost up to pounds 500 a day. But more standard jobs (say guarding an exhibition stand) will cost an awful lot less, usually about pounds 10 per hour.
The two-way walkie-talkie is still the most popular option but you can go for something more sophisticated which will double up as a mobile phone and therefore have a wider reach.
Cost and availability: Communication Spares UK says its most popular portable two-way radio is the Motorola GP34 which it hires out at pounds 12.50 per unit per week. A more sophisticated offering is the Dolphin radio which doubles up as a mobile phone and can be used anywhere in the UK, these cost pounds 20 per unit a week to hire.
Barriers and fencing
Outdoor events generally need heavy duty fencing to enclose the event and to protect any expensive equipment which may have to be left overnight. Barriers are also an effective crowd control solution and can be used to solve potential crowd problems before they arise.
Cost and availability: Firms such as Eve Trakway and Starhire will be able to provide barrier and fencing options. With any supplier it's important to check whether quoted costs include transport, assembly and plant hire.
If you are looking to recruit a security firm and need some expert advice then you can turn to the Inspectorate of the Security Industry (ISI).
The ISI is an independent body and was formed in 1992 with Home Office backing. Its aim is to ensure that security companies reach recognised British Standards and Codes of Practice.
The association offers advice to companies looking to source a security company by providing a list of 29 questions to ask. Among the most important questions are:
- Does the company carry out ten years' retrospective vetting on employees?
- Can the company supply evidence of adequate insurance to cover your needs?
- Can the company verify it complies with the code of practice for the security industry: BS 7499 Static Guarding, Mobile Patrol and Keyholding Services?
The ISI register is available free of charge and can be accessed on the Internet at www.isi.org.uk. Companies, which are inspected annually, are listed by region and in alphabetical order.
There are 160 firms on the register, covering everything from safe deposit centres and transporting cash and valuables to manned guarding and specialised services. Registered companies are entitled to display the 'tick and crown' accreditation mark.
There is also an entry-level scheme for guarding companies unable to meet the full requirements. These are listed as 'enrolled companies' and are expected to reached 'inspected company' status within a specific time-scale.
- The Inspectorate of the Security Industry 01905 773131
- AP Security Consultants, 4th Floor, Dexion House, 2-4 Empire Way, Wembley, Middlesex, HA9 OEF. Tel: 020 8795 1991
- Business and Entertainment Security, 2 Notridge Road, Norwich, Norfolk, NR5 9BE. Tel: 01603 441806
- Securicor Guarding, Gan House, 28 Dingwall Road, Croydon, Surrey, SM1 4LD. Tel: 020 8686 0123
- The Event and Exhibition Partnership, Jubilee Centre, 10-12 Lombard Road, Wimbledon, London, SW19 3TZ. Tel: 020 8543 5588
- IDentilam, Faygate, Horsham, Sussex, RH12 4DN. Tel: 01293 854700
- Thomas Fattorini, Regent Steet Works, Birmingham, BH1 8HQ. Tel: 0121 256 1507
- Eve Trakway, Dukes Place, Bath Road, Longford, West Drayton, Middlesex, UB7 OEW. Tel: 01623 515333
- London Communications, 134 Gloucester Avenue, Regents Park, London, NW1 8JA. Tel: 020 7586 9851
- Communication Spares (UK), Empress House, Empress Parade, Chingford Road, London, E4 8SL. Tel: 0800 0687194.