Securing Iconic Venues
Wembley Stadium, one of London’s iconic venues, is host to some of the world’s major sporting fixtures and concerts. The security model that Integrated Security Consultants Ltd (ISC) have developed can be applied to protect high-profile buildings across the globe, from banks to visitor attractions.
The security function is responsible for protecting the public, performers and athletes at the venue’s regular event days each year, which may be attended by up to 90,000 people. Equally, it protects offices and smaller venues within the complex, which provide the occasional or regular workplace for up to 500 full time staff, innumerable temporary staff, contractors, guests and VIPs. It’s important that all staff are confident that they are working in a safe and secure environment.
As home of England’s Football Association (The FA), the US’s National Football League (NFL) International Series, world famous concerts and international events, Wembley presents a huge range of security responsibilities and challenges. The building is subject to intense scrutiny from the press, the public and clients, thanks both to the presence of its regular VIP guests and the high public expectation to keep the venue and its millions of annual visitors safe.
It takes immense planning and careful implementation by the security team to ensure events take place safely. The stadium also has extensive risk considerations on non-major event days so it must be experienced, flexible and proactive, with the resources to appropriately staff everything from intimate corporate gatherings to high-end events, with delegates numbering anything from 20 to 10,000. A permanent security team for buildings such as this has to be multi-faceted and flexible, while maintaining a welcoming presence with world class recognised customer service.
The security challenges facing iconic destinations and places of work have evolved significantly over the last 15 years. The horrors of 9/11 loom large in every building operator or security business’s mind and the industry has developed a wealth of technology and expertise to reduce the risks of terrorism at every level.
A lot of the technologies were originally designed and implemented around crowd management. After 9/11 the counter terrorism side of security had to be taken into serious consideration, not just relying on police and counter terrorism services. Systems in all iconic buildings have, or should now have, been updated or retrospectively fitted.
No-one can predict the next big attack. On a day-to-day basis there is ever-greater emphasis on the access to buildings, with event owners, permanent staff and contractors increasingly conscious of whom they invite in. The flow of information between organisations has been a vital tool in fighting terrorism. Getting to know other security managers in other businesses and sharing intelligence is an enormous help in reducing risk. The Metropolitan Police instigated a security zone in Brent (as duplicated in other boroughs) which is managed by the local business community, covering the stadium and organisations from major hotels to the local DIY shop. We get together to talk about security. We don’t wait for something to happen; we discuss how to deal with risks and constantly re-evaluate the measures we have in place to stop an incident, and this is working very well.
Furthermore, we’re ever conscious not just of who is entering the building but who is approaching it. Security teams are constantly required to look beyond the front door and ask, ‘Who’s looking at my building? Who’s walked past three times today?’ Hostile reconnaissance – individuals ‘scoping’ the building for a host of reasons, whether for theft or even more serious intent – is often the first sign of an impending incident.
We are continually looking for improved technologies and methods of operating. While initial outlay can be higher with these technological approaches, they are an invaluable complement to feet on the ground and, when used correctly, prove highly cost-efficient in the long run. And, of course, all the information is recorded and stored.
Counter terrorism is of utmost importance but it is not the only challenge iconic building security teams face. We can never take our eye off the ball with asset management – the property and contents of the building. Conferences and banqueting operations see large amounts of expensive technology entering and leaving the building on a regular basis – sound, audio-visual and lighting equipment – while guests need to use their laptops and phones in publicly – accessible areas. We have to be alert all the time and, with a less experienced team, this could impact on customer service. We have developed real techniques and skills in the way that visitors are approached that don’t make them feel threatened or intimidated but allow us to gain any relevant information regarding their visit.
Understanding our clients’ objectives and values is of profound importance. There has been a move towards an ever more corporate, professional presence and we have to strike the right balance between maintaining the integrity of the building and allowing it to function efficiently. You can’t be heavy handed when hundreds of people are working in a building.
Various stakeholders of a building have different requirements at different times. We work with clients to ensure that, if a department is using temporary workers on the site, we have a full understanding of who they are, why and where they’re working in the building. One of the principle functions of security is to know the building and its people; our teams walk around the facilities saying hello to staff and finding out what desks or workstations everyone occupies.
We have introduced and are familiar with all types of technology from smart CCTV to other increasingly sophisticated systems. One of our initiatives in the last decade has been to work closely with the providers of these technologies to help them develop and increase their capabilities.
It is crucial that technology enhances the security operation and increases the capability of the security team to delay, detect, deter and deny attacks. Technological measures (CCTV, perimeter alarms, access control) must be fully integrated in order to achieve this. However, the speed with which technology is improving can make the desire for state of the art systems cost prohibitive. By using recognised methodology to identify the required technology, effective security solutions can be implemented which are proportionate and scaled to the threat. Systems can be identified that not only achieve the client’s operational requirements but which have durability and are therefore cost effective over the long term.
Systems like this are key to the security of any prominent public or private building. We have a strong pool of employees and managers who understand how buildings work, not just from an event perspective but from the point of view of an everyday working business. A security team’s skill set is likely to not just require manned guarding personnel, but a combination of manned guarding, events staff, surveillance and corporate and conference security staff, that allows you to work with – and handle appropriately – numbers of customers ranging from just 20 people to tens of thousands.
The right people for the right roles
Just because someone is good at manned guarding it doesn’t automatically make them a good corporate security officer nor will they necessarily have the ability to operate in an event environment, and vice versa. Effective security provision requires a range of individuals, with different skills according to each role. If it’s your company’s intention to bring in your manned guarding service provider for your corporate event it is worth checking that they have the correct skill set and training to enhance the visitor experience for your clients. One size does not fit all.
Integration is key
The key to successful security implementation is total integration with your client’s business needs. The security plan must be complementary to the overall business strategy and operation. It has to be agreed and signed off at the highest level and, more importantly, adhered to. Increased security is more accepted in both working and social life. In the workplace, it is imperative that a security culture exists and a programme of instruction / information is delivered. This can be as simple as induction sessions, information on notice boards, lunch and learn sessions or intranet articles. A good starting point is to make everyone understand that they have a responsibility to, at the very least, report anything untoward.
The permanent security team at Wembley Stadium plays a crucial role in one of the venue’s key strategies: reducing its carbon footprint. ‘Green patrols’ are part of the team’s ethos, with each officer trained to spot and turn off unused equipment and lights. This has assisted the Stadium in its recent achievement of attaining 3 Star Industry Green certification, the largest venue to ever receive the award.
We’ve learnt over the last decade that one of the most effective ways of combating all crime, from terrorism to petty theft, is by sharing information with appropriate organisations. While you may not be expecting 90,000 people to turn up to your next event or meeting, there are plenty of ways in which the processes we use at Wembley Stadium can help other businesses to greet their guests in a professional, dependable, effective and welcoming manner, whilst most importantly of all, keeping our iconic buildings safe.
Integrated Security Consultants Ltd