Security guards and private security officers work in a highly visible profession. Often, security professionals have a contractual obligation to deter inappropriate actions and prevent dangerous situations.
The professionalism and general behaviour of security guards, at events in particular, has never been so prevalent. Over the past few months, members of the public have been witness to two circumstances whereby fellow patrons have become victims of seriously dangerous situations. Whether it be a result of guard misconduct, or event mismanagement, situations that put the general public at risk are unacceptable.
Whilst it’s easy to criticise different parties in these situations, at CAP Security Services we learn from these incidents and use them as an educational and training tool for our team to ensure that situations of these nature never occur, and if something does happen that is absolutely unavoidable, our people have the necessary training to manage the situation.
As part of our blog series, this month we focus on the importance of security training, and discuss our thoughts on security best practice in relation to managing large crowds and handling difficult patrons.
The Importance of Training
Training is the cornerstone of any security program. Whilst security professionals are required to undertake an initial licensing course, ongoing training throughout their career will ensure that they are armed with the knowledge and skills to handle a range of situations. The security services industry is in a constant state of flux, with security measures constantly evolving and expanding. In order to be adaptable to these changes, guards must stay up to date with industry rules and regulations, client requirements and specific event demands.
Both off and on-site training are crucial in the field of private security. Off-site, or ‘classroom training’, is used for communicating industry updates, and briefing on upcoming jobs. On-site training will enable security personnel to become familiar with the client’s site characteristics and determine an appropriate security strategy to ensure that it is adequately protected and secured.
The importance of training is indisputable in security services. For a security professional,whether it be a security guard or crowd controller, ongoing training can only lead to increased safety of the security guard himself, and the safety of his surroundings, which is paramount for any security services company.
Just two potentially difficult situations we often find ourselves dealing with include management of large crowds and handling the odd difficult patron.
Managing Large Crowds
Managing crowds involves significant risk, particularly if event promoters have not performed appropriate due diligence, or if unforeseen circumstances impact on an otherwise manageable crowd. The extent, and exposure to risk will vary depending on a number of factors – the circumstances crowd controllers find themselves in, how well crowd control staff have been prepared, and how effectively risks have been evaluated.
For public events with large crowd numbers, strategic security plans that cater to the unique requirements and features of the event are required. Crowd management must take into account all elements of an event, from the characteristics of the venue, size and demeanor of the crowd, methods of entry and exit, communication strategy and queuing facilities.
There are five crowd control techniques that can be used by event staff, security personnel included, that are considered to be incredibly effective. Flow management of attendees is one of these techniques. In January, we saw a horrific and completely unanticipated stampede occur at Falls Festival in Lorne which injured 80 and hospitalised 19 festival-goers. It has been acknowledged that many factors contributed to this incident, however, there is one aspect of the event that could have been better managed in order to prevent the severity of this incident – site flow management. It’s essential to have solutions in place throughout the site to keep people moving in the right direction – whether entering, exiting or wandering around the site.
Here’s a brief overview of the other crowd control techniques:
- Wayfinding Optimisation: Remember that not every event attendee will be familiar with the venue. Account for those first-timers by signposting wherever possible and clearly mark established areas so that people can make their way to their desired destination.
- Queue Management: Queues are inevitable, especially for large events. And, unfortunately, queues can turn troublesome when patrons are tired or impatient. Best way to distract attendees from their queue? In line entertainment such a music or promotional videos. In addition, for potentially rowdy crowds, ensure that all barriers are solid and not easily moved.
- Permanent or Temporary Closure Management: With most events, there will be areas that need to be closed off. Not all crowds will be accepting of closures, especially if the closure is unexpected. Deter crowds by clearly signing all closed areas and ensure that they’re adequately secured by event and security staff.
- Flexible and Fast Deployment: Event organisers, staff and security personnel should have contingency plans for every possible situation.
Handling Difficult Patrons
Unfortunately not every event runs to the best laid plans, and there are times when security personnel are forced to deal with difficult, or even violent patrons, especially at events where alcohol and drugs are present. Our team are armed with a basic knowledge of human psychology and a solid set of communications skills which can greatly help in difficult situations.
We understand that not all people will respond well to instruction or authority, so we use the following strategies to ensure the most peaceful resolution possible (of course, if the situation is dangerous or threatening, the police would be called for support).
Active Listening: Our team are encouraged to let the patron in question vent their frustrations. A simple acknowledgement of one’s feelings can lessen the intensity of the situation. Further, assurance that you and your team are working to rectify the situation will keep them calm.
Voice Understanding: It’s important to voice your understanding of the individual’s grievances by empathizing with them, and apologising for the inconvenience if necessary.
Not Reacting: Our team members are encouraged to not to be stirred by an individual’s aggression. Though it may be tempting to stand one’s ground, unfortunately anger and retaliation will not accomplish the desired resolution and will appear to be incredibly unprofessional, and worst-case scenario, fuel the anger of other patrons and lead to an even more dangerous situation.
We hope that our ideas on security best practice give you some food for thought. It’s not always easy to manage crowds and difficult patrons, but armed with the right knowledge our team will be in a better position to reach the most peaceful and safe resolution possible.
For more information on our company philosophy, click here. Or to find out more about our specific service offerings, contact our Brisbane office on (07) 3892 7777.