The interior of room 32-134, the smaller adjoining room to Stephen Paddock’s suite at the Mandalay Hotel that he used as a sniper’s perch to attack a concert on Oct. 1, 2017. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police)

Confined Space Protection: A Post-Vegas Playbook for Safeguarding Venues and Stadiums

Today’s event security leaders have a difficult task at hand. The ever-evolving threat continuum not only keeps venue owners up at night but also keeps sport security professionals constantly looking to find ways to keeps fans, brand and organization assets safe from the threat of terrorism: domestic and international groups as well as the extremely unpredictable lone wolf.

The tragedy of the 2017 Las Vegas-Mandalay Bay mass shooting – a black swan event – has event security leaders revisiting the playbook in order to properly safeguard today’s confined spaces. Prior to the concert attack, the concept of an aerial assault was unfathomable. Security leaders entrusted with duty of care responsibilities had to literally go back to the drawing board on how best to prevent a copycat incident from happening. The loss of lives was catastrophic in every sense.

The question now: Where do we go from here?

Security leaders can have a monumental impact in the vertical by sharing best practices and lessons learned with their industry peers. Confined space protection refers to densely populated areas – in the case of Las Vegas, music fans who gathered to watch country singer Jason Aldean perform. When the shooting rampage first began, Aldean initially thought there were speaker or sound system issues. His security team directed him to leave the stage as the tragedy unfolded. Members of Aldean’s crew hid underneath the stage to shelter in place from the fusillade of bullets coming from the shooter who was situated on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.

When we look back to the 2017 Manchester Arena and the 2015 Paris soccer stadium bombings, we see the importance of event staff maintaining situational awareness and having the ability to lead patrons to safety during times of crises. Proactive risk mitigation event staff training is a key component to best confront these types of challenges.

Furthermore, the integration of technology, physical security screening measures, biometrics, LPR (license plate readers), effective communications between first responders and event staff, and crowd control/dynamics/patron demographics, along with responsible social media monitoring, can play a pivotal role in helping to prevent or reduce the loss of life when properly safeguarding future events.

Consider the numerous challenges facing today’s event security leaders:

  • active shooter/active assailant
  • workplace violence
  • errant drones
  • IED/bomb scares
  • inclement/severe weather conditions
  • biological, radiological, chemical attacks
  • threat of lone-wolf terrorism
  • domestic/international terrorism
  • protests, riots, or civil unrest
  • intoxicated or belligerent fans
  • crowd control, crowd dynamics/crowd crush
  • ingress/egress choke points or bottlenecks during patron screening
  • cyber/IT/facility-related issues, power outages
  • insider threats/bad actors

Event security leaders should consider these eight steps to better secure venues:

  • Conduct frequent threat and vulnerability assessments/site visits.
  • Invest in technology platforms to further safeguard the space.
  • Review security protocols and procedures on a consistent basis.
  • Foster public-private partnerships, including with JTTF (Joint Terrorism Task Force), fusion centers, U.S. Marshals, DHS, FEMA, FBI.
  • Offer verbal de-escalation skills training for your staff. Treating people with dignity and respect is key.
  • Conduct threat and behavioral analysis focused on looking for pre-attack indicators toward violence.
  • Utilize real-time intelligence gathering and analysis.
  • Ensure proper vetting, credentialing and background checks for employees, contractors and volunteers.

Post-Las Vegas, we are seeing increased liabilities exposure for contract security, hotel/hospitality/tourism and concert promoters within the vertical. The importance of brand protection, business continuity and resiliency cannot be understated in these endeavors. The constant ebb and flow of safeguarding today’s sports and entertainment industry, a multi-billion-dollar juggernaut, is a constant work in progress.

Safeguarding confined spaces begins with employee empowerment. Proactive training, continuing education and career development resources for those protecting the space will be the difference-maker in keeping fans safe and secure.

Bioweapons Threat at Large Venues Could Come from the Sky, Fear Security Experts

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James A. DeMeo, M.S. brings extensive security, law enforcement & consulting experience to both the public/private sectors. Mr. DeMeo was recognized by Security Magazine as one of The Most Influential People in Security 2017. Mr. DeMeo is also the author of the bestselling book on family safety & preparedness entitled, "What’s Your Plan? A Step-By-Step Guide to Keep Your Family Safe During Emergency Situations." Mr. DeMeo is a distance learning adjunct instructor for the highly regarded Tulane University School of Professional Advancement-SOPA, where he teaches graduate students about event security and risk management.

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