The 20th January 2021 marks the inauguration of the 46th President of the United States, Joe Biden. This four-yearly event is a long-standing tradition, and usually features a parade, and a public swearing-in ceremony attended by crowds of thousands in Washington, D.C. A significant proportion of the senior leadership of the U.S.A also attend, along with various dignitaries – both foreign and domestic – making the U.S Presidential Inauguration one of the most challenging security situations in the world.
The security services of the United States are well practiced at managing this type of risk, of course, and have developed the most rigorous strategies and standards, but the 2021 inauguration now poses a unique set of issues. Far from drawing attention as a solely celebratory event, this inauguration is likely to proceed differently. Not only is there a deadly pandemic tearing through the population, necessitating restrictions such as social distancing, but there are also very real, openly reported security threats from individuals and organisations inspired by the 6th January attack on the Capitol Building, which left five people dead and a nation terrorised.
So, with America preparing to stage this iconic event under these unprecedented circumstances, we can take the opportunity to explore why security risk management is vital in event planning. While the 2021 U.S Presidential Inauguration is an extreme example, the fundamental security considerations that apply to the event apply as basic principles in event planning in all situations.
How is security risk managed in the event planning process?
Whether you are planning to swear-in a new world leader in a globally broadcast ceremony, or are hosting a closed-door event, there are essential steps in security risk management that you must undertake, in order to ensure the safety of all involved. Security risk management is an essential component of event planning and should be undertaken in close collaboration with wider event planning personnel. This is because elements such as traffic management, waste management, catering and entertainment all impact the integrity of the security plan.
- Threat assessment
Of course, it seems obvious, but in order to effectively manage security risk for an event, you need to identify the specific nature of those risks. In security, this involves both initial and ongoing threat assessment, because threats are not static, and can change and evolve over time. Thorough and comprehensive threat assessment should consider several questions:
- How porous is the venue? In this context, the term ‘porous’ refers to the number of alternative entry points available at the site.
- How many potential targets will be attending?
- What type of threats is each potential target likely to attract?
- If tickets are on sale, what mechanisms are in place to trace ticket-holder details? Are there any instances of tickets being bought in bulk?
- How does the lay-out of the venue impact crowd control measures?
- Have background checks on event staff and corporate personnel been completed to mitigate risk from inside the event?
- What is the national threat level, and how does this impact the event?
- Is there any problematic internet activity pertaining to the event?
- What is the level of local criminal activity?
- Is there potential for unpredictable or extreme weather?
- Are food safety procedures in place and verifiable?
- Are there any fire hazards involved – either as part of the venue, or as part of activity at the event?
- How many potential targets will be attending?
Each of these questions must be answered through pre-event research, using expertise and careful analysis, in collaboration with wider planning personnel.
- Emergency planning
While general event planning requires the creation of an emergency plan, emergency planning is a key part of security risk management. It is essential that all involved know exactly how to proceed if an emergency arises during the course of the event. The considerations here include:
- What are the entry/exit strategies, and how are these communicated to staff and attendees?
- Are venue/event staff fully trained in evacuation procedures?
- Are venue/event staff fully trained in crowd control?
- Are venue/event staff fully trained in traffic management, including as part of evacuation?
- Are venue/event staff fully trained in First Aid techniques?
- Are communication channels between venue staff, event staff, and third party agencies (such as security) open, functional, and used in a consistent and effective manner?
- Is there a lost/missing child procedure in place?
- Are venue/event staff fully trained in dealing with aggressive behaviour?
Emergencies of any type can occur at even the most carefully planned event. Emergency planning as part of security risk management strategies mitigates the risk by ensuring that the response to an emergency is swift, appropriate, and effective.
- Intelligence analysis
Having identified threats pertaining to the event, and having undertaken comprehensive emergency planning, all of the intelligence gathered during those initial phases must be fully analysed by experts in the field. This analysis encompasses several approaches:
- Corroboration – Once gathered, intelligence must be corroborated to determine its veracity and connection to the event.
- Interpretation – Experienced professionals should apply their training and knowledge to intelligence gathered, in order to prioritise potential threats and advise on appropriate actions.
- Context – Both corroboration and interpretation of intelligence gathered must be analysed in context of the national and local reality – including criminal activity, internet activity, and weather activity.
The intelligence analysis part of the security risk management process is what turns unstructured information into actionable data. It is where definitive plans can be formed in direct response to good investigative work.
- Teams on site
The best laid plans are nothing without people on the ground to execute them properly, so having teams on site is the last piece of the security risk management puzzle. These teams should be experienced security professionals, fully versed in the detail of the event, the venue, the threat assessment, and the intelligence analysis that pertains to the event. These teams should liaise closely with each section of event and venue personnel to ensure the safety of all involved.
Responsiveness is key to the entire security risk management process. Security teams – in both planning, and in execution – need to be able to pivot and adapt as necessary to changing situations and circumstances. As new intelligence is gathered and analysed, security personnel must be able to communicate updates and effect change on a minute-to-minute basis, even as the event itself is underway.
What is the role of Private Investigation firms?
It is not uncommon for the term ‘Private Investigator’ to conjure mental images of a lone individual in a trenchcoat, trying to get to the bottom of the plot of a pulp fiction novel. It is 2021, however, and the reality of Private Investigation firms could not be more different from this outdated film noir cliché. Today, Private Investigation firms play a significant role in the security risk management of events, for the simple reason that they are often the most qualified independent contractors, with access to the state-of-the-art resources needed to deliver results.
The most significant advantage of engaging the services of a Private Investigation firm for event security risk management is agility. If responsiveness of your security team is key, then an agile group is the solution. This is delivered by Private Investigation firms that are entirely independent of the event host, venue, sponsors, or planners. A Private Investigation firm is focused solely on security risk management, and the role of liaising with relevant personnel on that subject. Moreover, this focus is led by highly experienced personnel.
At OpSec Solutions, for example, all agents are fully trained in every aspect of surveillance. These industry professionals come from a variety of police, military, corporate, and government backgrounds, and bring with them a wealth of field experience and insight into the minutiae of security risk management. This commitment to training and professionalism has earned OpSec Solutions accreditations from numerous industry bodies, including the Association of British Investigators, the UK Professional Investigators Network, and the Institute of Professional Investigators.
Along with experience and professionalism, Private Investigation forms such as OpSec Solutions also bring cutting edge technology to the situation. This includes audio and visual surveillance techniques, as well as GPS tracking and cyber investigation strategies. Using means that are entirely within the law, these Private Investigators can ethically produce documented evidence of activities that pose a threat to the security of your event, along with regular, detailed threat assessment reports, and intelligence analysis.
Private Investigation firms also have the advantage of being able to provide security risk management on an individual basis, as well as for events or venues. This means that, should potential threats arise concerning an individual, that individual can engage the services of a professional Private Investigation firm, to ensure their safety at an event, or as they go about their business. This close protection work can be particularly invaluable during times of increased exposure, or even during time spent at a specific residential property. These cases will also involve the collation of threat assessment reports and intelligence analysis.
The year 2021 is already proving to be a challenging year, with a high level of risk involved in even the most mundane of activities. There is no better time to re-evaluate your security risk management strategies and engage the services of a Private Investigation firm. Call OpSec Solutions to book your consultation.