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Event Security Series: 2. Crowded Spaces & Risk Perception

Crowded Space Attacks

Following the terrorist attacks over the last 5 years, it is clear that crowded events are now a direct target for terrorist individuals and organisations. The Las Vegas shooting of The Route 91 Harvest Festival was the deadliest shooting by an individual in the United States. Following the attack there has been much debate over the security protocols in place and whether the attack could have been prevented or at least the death toll minimised. Hotels with hundreds of rooms and no security screening allow criminals to go undetected, following the attack Las Vegas has increase security presence on the roof as well as the ground of hotels. There were fences in place to prevent people entering the site, a normal security measure, however they restricted attendees from exiting to safety during the attack. Prompting the debate that security needs to be in place, but organisers must make sure it cannot hinder safety in the event of an emergency.

The attacks on both the Bataclan in Paris and Manchester Arena, UK have placed a greater emphasis in security at concert venues no matter the capacity. After the inquiries into the Manchester Arena attack stating MI5 had not shared enough information. There is hope there will be greater communication between intelligence agencies, local authorities and event organisations, with all parties agreeing collaboration is the only way to handle high security situations. It is important to note from the Las Vegas and Manchester Arena attacks, the attacker does not need to enter the premises to cause harm, both of these were carried out from outside the security area. There for security needs to be in place in-between transport hubs and a venue as well as the perimeter of the facility. Not only this but security cannot diminish once the event has begun, the Manchester attack was as attendees left the arena, security need to be present until the area is clear.

As a result of the Manchester Arena attack the UK Government produced updated advice on how venues and organisations can implement proactive security measures. These included maintaining search and control measures during the full lifecycle of the event and improving basic good housekeeping principles for all staff. The event industry has had to accommodate frequent changes in legislation, health and safety regulations and government guidance as intelligence evolves and the threat from terrorism changes. It is important for event managers to understand what their attendees want from security at a venue and keep up to date with the best practises to enhance safety and their experience. It has been noted these types of places are becoming targets due to their proximity to transport links, the free movement of people outside and around the venues, potential revenues from the event and the media attention to the event alone but also a result of an attack would bring.

Risk Perception

Risk Perception has been defined as subjective, it is down to the individual to determine what they believe to be a risk, and this will differ to each person. You therefore cannot create a singular factor that influences risk, there will be many, the important is identifying where there are trends. The perception of risk within the tourism industry has led to the downfall of locations like Turkey, as tourists will not travel to destinations or venues if they believe the level of risk involved is not work the reward, even if this disagrees with the professional opinion on the level of risk for that area. Even if there is a perceived risk despite the risk not logically being present, it can cause damage to a destination or venues reputation. If people fear they will come to harm, they will avoid the situation, so it is important to reassure visitors by portraying a positive media image.

Research has shown that the perception of a terrorist threat alone can be enough to alter the publics behaviour. This is especially prominent in urban areas, as the fear of crime is identified as a higher risk factor than suburban and countryside locations. However local residents to an event or destination have differing views when it comes to the risk associated with the location compared to visitors. They see their local areas as safer and their concern for terrorism is low. There have been two types of risk identified as causing the highest levels of fear amongst the public. Research done by Renn (1992) and Slovic (2004) demonstrated these risk factors were consistent throughout both of their research, these being dread risk and unknown risk.

Dread risk is defined by the lack of control and catastrophic potential impact an individual feel is associated to an event. Unknown Risk is the fear of unknown consequences as a result of the infrequent occurrence of a potential risk. The emotion of dread is a key factor in the public’s perception of risk, the fear of something out of their control can influence many other decisions they make. Terrorism is currently listed as the top dreaded risk globally, due to its prominence in the media and academic discussions. It is interesting to note terrorism being the top dreaded risk as the majority of people have never been affected by terrorism directly and the likely hood of many other harmful events are a lot higher. This backs up the research that people’s fears do not come from their own personal experiences. Demonstrating the need to evaluate the extent of how a persons perceived risk of terrorism can affect the event industry, and what influences their decisions to attend events in crowded venues.

for more information on crowded places guidance see the following publication from UK Government:

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