The recent Capitol riots in the US shouldn’t have surprised anyone. Civil unrest leading to attacks on places of mass gathering, particularly government buildings and other venues of high symbolic value, have only increased in recent times. How to protect these venues of mass gathering?
Interoperability is key to protecting venues of mass gathering
Often, because of their size and symbolic resonance, the protection of venues of mass gathering will usually fall to multiple public safety agencies in moments of crisis.
This makes understanding inter-party cooperation a crucial first step for venue owners and operators. However, precepts undergirding inter-party cooperation only work if properly deployed in a previously-agreed-upon framework. And it is interoperability that gives multiple stakeholders such a framework to work well together, particularly during unplanned major events.
Interoperability has multiple components, enabling the protection of venues of mass gathering – technological interoperability, or the ability of multiple stakeholders to work seamlessly with the systems or products of peer organisations, for one.
It should be obvious that all stakeholders involved in the securing of places of mass gathering need to be able to talk to each other and share information in real time. It is only in using interoperable security management technologies, though, that they can.
Of course, interoperability isn’t only beneficial while responding to an unplanned event at a venue of mass gathering. What exists of the case evidence suggests that stakeholders who incorporate interoperability into their event planning efforts can also better pool resources.
Emergency action planning for places of mass gathering
Which frameworks matter? Interoperable structures like NIMS (National Incident Management System) or AIIMS (Australasian Inter-Service Incident Management System) provide stakeholders the easy-to-use frameworks they need in order to achieve better outcomes. But NIMS and AIIMS are only a means to an end. Effective inter-party cooperation during an emergency at a venue of mass gathering still requires formalising inputs like the emergency action plan (EAP).
In the case of planned events, specifically, venue owners and operators might even be required by law to have EAPs – add to that, jurisdictions often impose protocols for on-site emergency medical services, as well. That’s because EAPs serve the dual purpose of (1) identifying all potential emergency hazards, including security threats, as well as (2) mitigating the risk (to life and property) posed by those hazards.
Public safety agencies usually dole out generic EAPs. But it’s important to note that generic EAPs won’t secure your venue of mass gathering.
To be functional, an EAP needs to be highly site-specific. The only way to get that level of specificity is to plan in tandem with venue owners/operators, relevant public officials, and, of course, public safety agencies. The resultant EAP should include:
- An organisation chart laying out contacts to notify in the case of an emergency
- Clear notification instructions and procedures
- A list of responsibilities for emergency tasks assigned to specific roles, e.g., who is responsible for identifying, evaluating, classifying, then officially declaring an emergency under pre-determined conditions
Those component elements will get you to a baseline. To go above, you’ll need to use risk-based practices to analyse the vulnerability of your venue to natural, manmade, and context-specific emergencies, coordinating with all relevant jurisdictions, agencies, and individuals. From there, you’ll create a detailed site plan, including locations of all commercial services, first aid, assembly areas, vehicle access for emergency vehicles, etc. Other best-practice measures include:
- Centralising activity in an emergency operations centre
- Disseminating primary and secondary communications systems
- Conducting routine plan trainings with revisions to the plan when necessary
And since the threat of violence associated with civil disturbance is clearly on the rise, including standalone annexes for likely risks makes sense, as well. But don’t stop there. EAPs will only take you so far. Protecting venues of mass gathering takes a wholistic approach.
To learn more, download our Guide to Protecting Venues of Mass Gathering: