RAISING SITUATIONAL AWARENESS It’s key to mitigating risk at live events By John Siehl
n an article I wrote for F&EM about three years ago,* I highlighted a trend toward “complacency and apathy” when it comes to safety and security efforts in the sports and entertainment industry. “Not going to happen to me.” “Not going to happen here.” “What’s the worst that can happen?” I know, in the old days, I too said all of those things. I now find that we, as an industry, are much more aware of and in touch with the reality of catastrophic happenings in venues and public gathering situations. After a number of national tragedies, shootings and other purposeful acts of violence, I am seeing that the industry has taken steps to mitigate the opportunity for violent acts. Yes, it is still true that the bad guy need only be in the right place at the right time to instill fear and physical harm, while we, as the professionals, must be ready and “on our game” 100 percent of the time. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) continues to offer suggestions and training to combat these breaches into our professional lives. In recent publications on securing soft targets and crowded places,** DHS offers several practices that can help reduce the opportunity for the person looking to wreak havoc on a public entity. Collectively, the practices form a training method known as Situational Awareness. With this training, the general population of staff and patrons can become more aware of their environment, helping to mitigate the risk. The awareness can be facilitated with signage, announcements and guidance by trained staff. For example, knowing that you are in a confined space with few defined exits or paths to safety helps create the forethought to visualize the escape route. Ask yourself, “Is there a way out if the bad guy is here?” “Where would I go?” “Do I see an obstacle in the way of my escape?” With these questions in mind, we, the event or venue managers, should review our individual situations to ensure that we have not created roadblocks to safety. We must be diligent in the workplace as well. Encourage your staff to: 1 Be aware of drastic changes in attitude toward others; 2 Take note of any escalations in behavior and report them to the supervisor; and 3 Provide any information that may facilitate intervention and mitigate potential risks. With regard to (1) and (2), staff should watch for warning 76
signs that may include: increasingly erratic, unsafe or aggressive behaviors; hostile behavior based on claims of injustice or perceived wrongdoing; drug and alcohol abuse; claims of marginalization or distancing from friends and colleagues; changes in performance at work; sudden and dramatic changes in home life or in personality; financial difficulties; pending civil or criminal litigation; observable grievances; and statements of retribution. This diligence can help ensure the safety of those around you and your staff members.
he bad guy need only be in the right place at the right time to instill fear and physical harm, while we, as the professionals, must be ready and “on our game” 100 percent of the time Once identified, risk factors call for preventative action. This can be as simple as covering an exposed extension cord or as complex as recognizing suspicious behavior and alerting the authorities or removing the threat oneself, depending on the situation. Spending money is not always the answer; many times we have the information about risks and hazards right in front of us, and our charge is to evaluate and train the staff in order to reduce the risk of a crisis. It is our duty to train and plan in this way once we accept the responsibility to care for our patrons and staff. Let’s continue to buck the trend of complacency/apathy and move toward awareness, consideration, diligence and action, accepting our duty of care. John Siehl, CVE is Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at VenuWorks. Siehl entered the public assembly industry in 1965 at Hara Arena in Dayton, OH. In 1990, he joined the staff at the Ervin J. Nutter Center as the General Manager, retiring from the Nutter Center in 2010 as Executive Director, after 20 years on the campus of Wright State University. Siehl is a Past Chair of IAVM, where he is currently on the Certification Board. Siehl has been an active participant in the Academy for Venue Safety & Security (AVSS) since its inception, first as a student and subsequently joining the faculty. He also has been on the Board of Regents and faculty of the Venue Management School at Oglebay, WV for many years. * 2016-2017 F&EM Booking Guide, page 51 ** dhs.gov/securing-soft-targets-and-crowded-places FACILITIES & EVENT MANAGEMENT 2019 SUPERBOOK