How Better Managed Credentials Improve Event Security

This Post – Managing Event Credentials, and:

  • The Role of Your Security Guards
  • Why You Have Unfocused Security Staff
  • Confusing Credential Levels
  • How RFID Can Save Fans and Celebrities
  • The Need for Better Credentials Checks
  • How RFID Supports Access Control

 

A recent study from UK securities firm ATG Access found that 40% of attendees fear for their safety at live events, with that number climbing as high as 46% in other regions. Yet perhaps most troubling is the 29% who stated that they would “choose not to go to a public event due to concerns around low levels of security.”

“These worries must be considered by event organizers when planning out the venue, entrance points and layout of the location to make sure that visitors can enjoy the event comfortably,” – Gavin Henson of ATG Access in their report “Protecting the Future of Multifunctional Cities.”

The timely study brings chilling statistics to an attitude widely felt across the global event industry. Fans are starting to view events as potential targets, and security appears to be playing a role in the decision to attend an event. This puts the onus firmly on the live event industry to collectively adapt to these threats and fears, and that starts with ensuring that you have maximum oversight over who is entering your event.

Chad Ladov is the president and founder of Unified Command, a US-based surveillance firm that specializes in live events. While security guards on the ground are often saddled with a number of important, often conflicting roles, Ladov and his team specialize in observing and assessing threats.

After co-presenting an event security workshop with Intellitix at XLIVE Las Vegas in December 2017, we reached out to Ladov to learn a little more about the challenges facing security staff, particularly those tasked with manning your event’s entry points. We ask whether manual credential verification and threat assessment can co-exist, or if it’s time to let the security guards focus squarely on assessing risk.

Are You the Cause of Distracted Guards?

Studies have shown that the human mind spends 46.9% of its time in a state of wandering from the task at hand. This is a troubling statistic for security guards as they must retain an optimal focus at all times.

Any security guard will tell you that event security shifts can be grueling. They require staff to stay alert amongst thousands of attendees for as many as twelve hours at a time. Festivals and comic conventions in particular are high stimuli environments, and guests often come in costumes or outlandish outfits carrying props, and this requires the utmost focus and attention to detail.

According to Statistic Brain, the human attention span is already an issue, so why increase the strain on your security staff by unnecessarily stretching their efforts thin?

“If you aren’t focused you’re going to miss things, and you can’t take those kind of chances.”

“Focus is absolutely critical because your security needs to stand there and look at every individual that walks through and assess their behavior, their eyes, their appearance, their demeanor, their clothing,” explains Ladov.

Why Access Control is So Important to Patron Security

As the first point of contact that patrons encounter at your event, the staff working your access points have a key role to play in the operations. Not only is your security expected to ensure proper credential checks to a variety of event access levels, but also monitor and pass judgment on every person that approaches their station. 

By dividing the focus of these key staff members, you’re making your access points vulnerable and compromising your security staff’s ability to keep the shady characters out.

Verifying credentials and assessing risk—which can be suspicious behavior, over-intoxication, or smuggling prohibited items on site—are the primary roles of access security.

The Credential Levels are Confusing

access-control-credentialsInstructions for security guards manning entrance points for live events often amounts to printing a low-quality wristband pass sheet and taping it to a fence within eyeshot.

Ladov considers the “pass board” or “credential sheet” to be both extremely prone to error, and detracts from the most important role that your security should be doing…watching for threats.

“There’s no real access control when you decide you’re going to have 15 or more different levels of access and a manual process of verification. Your staff shouldn’t have to keep referring to a pass sheet when they’re manning a busy entrance. They should be focused solely on observing the crowd and being attuned to suspicious behavior,” says Ladov.

How RFID Delivered the Real 1-2 Punch

With a reported $400m purse, intense media coverage and an above average celebrity guest list, the Floyd Mayweather vs Conor McGregor bout in Las Vegas in August 2017 was one of the most high profile sporting events in history.

One month before the bout, YouTuber Zac Alsop created fake staff credentials and snuck into the London press conference. At the time of writing, the video he posted has more than 1.5m views. While Alsop’s intentions were not malicious, AEG, MGM and T-Mobile Arena couldn’t take any risks for fight night and believed that the highly publicized video was likely to spur imitators in Las Vegas.

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The organizers turned to Intellitix for RFID Access Control to fortify the staff entrances and restricted zones at the T-Mobile Arena. For the main event, more than 3000 staff members were given RFID enabled credentials that needed to be scanned for entrance into the event. The credential levels were automatically assigned to the badge so only the right people were let into the right areas at the right times – All of this being controlled from a central security hub.

Read The 4-Step Guide to See if RFID is Right for You >

Despite making an attempt to gain entry to the event, Alsop was stopped outside the event at an RFID credential check-point. If the security staff were given a traditional pass sheet with a visual credential check, Alsop would have had no issue making his way into the venue and potentially ending up right next to the celebrities…again.

The Need for Better Credential Checks

Given the size of a festival or sporting event audience, security guards are expected to assess a person’s potential risk in a moment, and that’s only possible if they are focused on key threat indicators.

“Anyone that is carrying a big bag, or wearing heavy clothing in an environment where that isn’t necessary are the most obvious red flags,” explains Ladov.

But we also need to ask:

  • Do they seem lost?
  • Do they seem jittery?
  • Do they seem confused?
  • Do they seem disoriented?

We’re constantly looking for individuals in a medical context too, and trying to recognize when they’re starting to get dehydrated or sick before they even know it themselves.”

“Simply put: if you’re not profiling, then you’re really not doing security work. You’re just there as a physical presence.”

RFID for Access Control Lets Your Security Focus

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By automating the base layer of security, you are removing the human error from the equation, and allowing your staff to focus.

RFID as a tool for access control strips the event credential verification process down to a simple green light or red light, and Ladov considers this a paramount addition to the security guard’s tool kit.

“What is so important to me is that the RFID has freed up your security to eyeball everyone. You suddenly have focused eyes on every person that attempts to access the various areas of the site.” adds Ladov.

“I can tell you that, when I’m performing more of a security function or when we’re looking at our cameras from a surveillance perspective, we are trying to eyeball everybody that comes in. I would expect the security guard at any of those access points to be doing the exact same thing. I would want them scrutinizing everybody that comes in, and they just can’t do that effectively if they’re also focused on thinking about different colors of wristband the whole time.”

Intellitix recently delivered an access control solution at a North American music festival. The event had a capacity of around 30,000 people, and over two days 7,028 attempts to enter prohibited areas were prevented.

Without RFID, you’d have absolutely no idea what that number is, but you could guarantee that some of those attempts would have been successful.

Final Thoughts

The threat is real and we are all being forced to reckon with the reality that the events we produce and attend are targets in someone’s eyes. Through effective access control—RFID or otherwise—advanced surveillance, and ample pre-event risk assessment, you can take reasonable steps to limit someone’s chances of successfully attacking your event.

The law dictates that you, as an event producer, exert a reasonable amount of effort to keep people reasonably safe under reasonable circumstances. But the standard for reasonableness is changing quickly.

The urgency to adapt to this change is clear when you consider that 40% of fans fear for their safety at live events. Unless we collectively acknowledge the threats to our industry and pledge to revise our definition of reasonableness and install standards that reflect this, that number will continue to rise.

See if RFID Access Control is Right for You >

To learn more about how to increase the security of your next event, check out the Intellitix Access Control solutions and see how we can help your next event.

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