Why uniformed event security is so important—key considerations

By: Yannick Drapeau
June 6, 2013

Like umbrellas and windbreakers, event security is one of those things in the category “better-to-have-it-and-not-need-it-than-to-need-it-and-not-have-it.” Sure, if you don’t have security at your event and something happens, you can call police. But, by the time they get there, whatever small problem you have could have turned into something much bigger…with a huge legal liability to boot.

With security present, you can contain not only any mishaps and mayhem, but also the fallout from any resulting lawsuits. That’s because you can show evidence of due care for the safety of your guests and any hired help associated with your event.

Even sweet-sixteen parties can get out of hand: I read a story from the U.S. years ago about the parents of a 16-year-old who invited 20 of her friends to a backyard pool party that they chaperoned with another couple. Texting brought a dozen more kids they didn’t know so when the parents showed the uninvited guests to the gate, they were shocked to find 200-plus kids partying in their long cul-de-sac. They called the police, but before authorities showed, a young AWOL Marine in the crowd killed another teen in front of their house. The result? The deceased’s parents sued the girl’s parents.

Would uniformed security have been appropriate at a sweet-sixteen pool party? Most wouldn’t think so. Would uniformed security have helped break up the street party sooner than calling the police? Most definitely. Would uniformed security have made it harder for the dead teen’s grieving parents to find a lawyer willing to argue their case? Probably.

Whether you’re planning a small or large, public or private event, security should be on your checklist. Here are some potential problems to consider:

• Over-consumption of alcohol and underage drinking

• Weapons and fights, especially ones that turn into a small riot

• Thefts of cash, goods and other valuables

• Stampeding crowds

• Medical emergencies

• Vandalism and fires

Next, think about what you want security personnel to do: Will they be just providing a uniformed presence, guard valuables and respond to any problems? Or, will they take a more active role and screen attendees coming in the door for alcohol, drugs and weapons? Will they also be expected to remove anyone acting unruly or offenders of your event’s no-drug-or-alcohol policy?

How many guards do you need? If you search the Web for answers to this question, you’ll find guard-to-guest ratios like 1:50 and 1:100, but the real answer is “as many as you need.” While that may sound flip, you have to consider not only the number of people attending your event, but also many other factors such as:

• What is the age range of guests? (The younger they are, the more chance of problems.)

• How long is the event? (A day or days-long festival will require shifts and breaks for the security guards, with more time for trouble to brew than an event lasting just a few hours or less.)

• Is the event indoors or outdoors? What’s the size of the facility? How many entrances and exits? (A contained facility with one or two entrances and exits is much easier to secure than an enormous complex or outdoor venue spread over acres or several city blocks.)

• Will alcohol will be served or allowed? (Is this the third time I’ve mentioned alcohol??)

• Will participants be screened for weapons, drugs and alcohol? (If not, but depending on the type of the event, attendees could likely smuggle them in. Weapons especially can create instant havoc—and stampede, making matters worse.)

• What kinds of valuables could be stolen at the event?  (The more valuables, the more guards are needed.)

Call the professionals. Given the many variables your event might have, it’s best to consult with security professionals. In Canada, Garda Protective Services can provide highly trained security personnel in more than 140 cities. In the U.S., get referrals to qualified guard services and check references.