The three must-haves for securing large-scale, in-person events are pre-planning, operational management and post-event audit. At each stage, potential risks must be considered and accounted for, including cyber attacks, health hazards, extreme weather, traffic delays and patterns and other potential disruptions.
While the ultimate goal remains the same—protect the people—doing so can be especially challenging. These events require a significant amount of coordination between various organizations, both public and private, at the local, state, national and/or global level. Add to that the many different types of people in need of protection, from politicians and high-profile leaders to thousands of spectators, and the stakes increase significantly.
Here, I’ll explore three key steps public sector agencies and organizations can take to safeguard large events more efficiently and effectively, as well as how real-time information plays a role in helping them quickly mitigate or avoid potential threats.
As soon as you know you’re going to do a large-scale event, start preparing. Best practices dictate that coordination and planning begin at least 12-18 months prior to the event. But some events require even more lead time, like the Olympics and Paralympics. Planning for the 2028 summer games in Los Angeles, California is already underway. That’s at least six years worth of preparation.
The pre-event planning phase is the perfect time to look at what’s worked well for other agencies and peers. Don’t try to reinvent the proverbial wheel. Adopt proven practices. This is also the time to develop the strategic vision for the event and establish your core planning group. You can then formalize cross-agency communications, which ensures information symmetry among all the different organizations involved.
It’s important to remember that pre-planning is just as crucial as the event execution because you need to understand the everyday environment of the location. What type of incidents happen regularly? Has there been a recent increase in public safety incidents? What do traffic patterns look like? Understanding these factors early on is key to establishing a baseline of knowledge—one that you will continue to build on, from pre-planning to the actual event.
To do so, having access to real-time information is essential. Real-time alerting solutions like First Alert, Dataminr’s product for the public sector, help organizations maintain awareness and gain comprehensive real-time visibility into the environment of their event’s venue, enabling them to make well-informed plans.
Similar to pre-event planning, operational management requires incorporating communications coordination and response scenarios. During this time, an established core planning group should stress test response plans and ensure plans are both scalable and flexible enough to pivot or be modified in a time of crisis. This is also an opportune time to ensure that communications chains are clear and the core planning group understands roles, responsibilities and points of contact.
Finally, the operational management planning should ensure that members of the core planning team are well versed in using real-time information to inform emergency response plans and mobilize resources quickly in the event of a critical, time-sensitive situation.
We’ve seen our customers do this well when using First Alert, by leveraging real-time breaking news alerts to ensure all stakeholders have the same access to critical information, allowing for better alignment and more effective risk mitigation.
On-demand Webinar: Watch the Value of Real-time Alerting in Public Safety Emergencies to see how First Alert helps public sector organizations respond to high-impact events.
Once an event is complete, take the time to capture, analyze and share lessons learned. It’s one of the most critical steps in planning and executing large-scale events. If lessons are not captured, teams will miss out on a major opportunity to improve operations in the future and reduce duplication of efforts.
As such, the act of documenting lessons learned should be fully embedded in operations, including having the core planning team commit to conducting post-event review. In fact, determining who is responsible for capturing those lessons should be done in the pre-planning phase. Teams should ask themselves how will they document lessons learned? How will they be used?
When each of these phases is done right, security teams are better able to safeguard large-scale events. Add real-time information to the equation and the ability to protect people and infrastructure significantly increases. Access to real-time information allows emergency response plans to be executed more effectively, enabling public sector agencies and organizations to respond faster and deploy the right resources at the right time in critical, time-sensitive situations.
At Dataminr, this is one of the many benefits of our First Alert product. What’s more, we help to ensure public sector organizations can maintain real-time visibility into incidents as they unfold, over the course of seconds, minutes or hours.
As we move further into a post-COVID-19 reality, it’s clear that the world is returning to, and embracing, large-scale, in-person events—from the FIFA World Cup to the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos. That calls for public sector organizations and agencies to consider (or reconsider) how they can strengthen security at large-scale events. To recap, they should be sure to:
To learn more about planning and safeguarding large-scale events, download the ebook 3 Best Practices to Ensure Public Safety at Large-scale Events.
Dana Barnes is President of Global Government at Dataminr, focusing on delivering mission-supporting solutions to government customers worldwide. Prior to Dataminr, he held several leadership roles including senior vice president for U.S. public sector sales at Palo Alto Networks and vice president for state and local government at Microsoft. A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Dana also served as an artillery officer in the U.S. Marine Corps.