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September 2005
Loss Management Consultants

Mitigation of Civil Liability/Injury - Event Management

By: Ira S. Somerson, BCFE, CPP

Tel: (800)-848-4308 or (610)-279-5450

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In discussing the mitigation of civil liability with event management, a phrase from the web-site of Diversified Management Services, "Strategic Planning Services" states, "If you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there." This, of course, applies to ending up in court defending against an action that alleges inadequate security where a spectator or other "business invitee" is injured after a "foreseeable" security and safety incident. We all know that getting there is often unavoidable as we never can guarantee that every spectator will not become injured while attending an event. The objective, however, is to plan how you are perceived once you�ve arrived. The steps taken by event planners, promoters and facilities to deter, detect, deny, respond to and/or recover from the inevitable injury of a spectator is strategic to a non-suit, directed verdict for defendant or damage control to the final verdict/settlement. What are these steps?


I was once asked by an event planner to provide a security program for a special event soon to be held at their new city-owned stadium. He was interested in permanent as well as temporary changes (technological and procedural), but needed an operational guideline as soon as possible to deal with the upcoming special event (major rock concert). The event had been planned as a public relations venue to attract the community to the new stadium. When I asked what he was trying to prevent or manage, he looked at me, eyebrows raised and shoulders shrugged, and stated, "You know what happens!" At that moment he must have sincerely believed that he was wasting his time with my interview. Many minutes later I had convinced him that a risk assessment before each and every event was mandatory. I agreed with him that there were basic procedural and technological crowd control tactics for any event at the new stadium, but that if he wasn�t prepared to routinely conduct a risk assessment ("vulnerability analysis") to identify unique security risks before each special event that he would be in for unpleasant surprises that his "basic" security program would not be able to respond to and/or manage. In addition to asking for the guidelines and specifications for the technology needed, he authorized that a risk assessment be conducted.

"An understanding of the meaning of "risk factor" was an underlying question for many of those who participated in the survey. First of all, a "risk factor" is one that identifies something that is an actual possibility of injury, death, property damage, damage to public image, claims and lawsuits. In business it always boils down to money but some losses cannot be adequately computed to a monetary value. There are other terms that are often used that directly relate to what is generically defined as a risk factor including perils, hazards, threats, and vulnerabilities. In addition, risk factors include the concerns of the various entities involved in the event. These concerns may or may not be accurate or verifiable but must be addressed since the actions, decisions and allocations made by these individuals is based on their concerns. Whether the concerns are phobic or unlikely, they must still be identified and evaluated..."1

The following is a summary of the risk assessment that was implemented:

  1. A focus group made up of all of the event�s organizational players involved with the stadium�s operation and the promotion and management of the special event convened. Two meeting were held:
    • In the first meeting, facilitated by an experienced risk assessor, the focus group was asked (with help from the facilitator) to identify all reasonably foreseeable risks and to queue them in the order of their likelihood to occur. They were also to measure the impact if each risk to the various organizations involved and to all persons who would be invitees at the event. Special information, where needed, was provided to the focus group to assist with their deliberations. Considering the nature of this particular event, focus group members were introduced to "The Rock Safety DatabaseTM" developed by Crowd Management Strategies.2 This database enables an evaluator to learn if a band has a history of concert trouble before it plays your town. "If you're involved in concert public safety, the Rock Safety DatabaseTM (RSD) will help you plan more effectively and, if necessary, help provide backup data you need to justify additional safety precautions, staffing or equipment. The database covers crowd safety problems and issues from 1952 to the present and is continuously updated using a multitude of sources. It is a powerful planning tool with a reputation for accuracy. The Rock Safety DatabaseTM gives you inside information on crowd management problems that others may not want you to know; or don't know themselves." The focus group was also introduced to other techniques (e.g. benchmarking, inherent risk analysis, etc.) where like venues throughout the country are surveyed to determine risks.
    • In the second meeting, after all foreseeable risks are prioritized, the focus group members are given a list of strategies that are designed to deter, detect, deny, respond and/or recover from threats. Each risk is then evaluated as to what defensive strategies will be more likely to effectively set safety and security measures. The special event is given particular attention with regard to inherent and/or historical risks that ordinarily would not be an issue with other events.
  2. What are the strategies that the focus group applied to each risk?
    • Event Staff: Use of stadium personnel to serve in a quasi-security capacity. Stadium personnel are not necessarily qualified to perform security officer functions, but are depended upon for their eyes and ears in support of qualified security personnel assigned to an event. This support staff can be ushers, ticket takers, custodial and/or others. They are trained and equipped to observe potential hot spots and immediately report what they see.
    • Security Officer Service: Uniformed (preferably unarmed) security officers (in-house or privately contracted) that are trained to respond to requests for assistance. It is imperative that this security operation be well trained and prepared to respond to security and safety incidents. They should be well trained, for example, in crisis resolution and in the use/abuse of power. This will enable them to confidently serve in the capacity of deterring, detecting, denying, responding to and/or assisting in the recovery of an incident. They must have a competent communications link with stadium personnel and be sufficiently deployed so that their response can be timely and effective. Their goal is to prevent, but when that is not possible, their next objective is to isolate and contain potentially dangerous situations. To the extent that public law enforcement is available to support security, the communications and liaison before, during and after each event is vital.
    • Public Law Enforcement: Public law enforcement is often part of event management.
      "All events should in some way be able to utilize the expertise and qualifications of local law enforcement. Law enforcement is usually more than willing to help event organizers in whatever ways they can even in those cities where the police are not allowed to enter an event site or facility except during an emergency. Many cities have established Special Event Divisions with a group of experienced officers who can be of service."3

      However, it is first important that event planners are keenly aware of the role differences between law enforcement officers and a private security force. In most venues, they are limited to the outside of a stadium but available for response to public disorders where the arrest powers and advanced training of law enforcement is needed. Event planners instinctively want public law enforcement to be involved and to the extent possible they want them to part of stadium patrol and response. For instance, if a particular venue is known to attract persons who abuse and/or sell dangerous substances, undercover police officers can be very effective in identifying this use, responding to it and minimizing future problems. If this is preferred, careful coordination by planners must be achieved so that there is a clear understanding of when and how law enforcement takes over and controls the incident. Public law enforcement, by law and custom, will not treat certain events, particularly felonies, as would a security team that represents business interests. The police officer carries a weapon. Is this what you want? When? In certain venues, the presence of a strong law enforcement image is vital. In others it is uninviting and presents image and marketing concerns. It is essential to clearly understand the pros and cons of their use and to apply their use in response to the risks presented by a particular event before making your decision. You must identify your risks.
    • Standing Operation Procedures ("S.O.P."): Training and supervision of support staff and security personnel cannot possibly be implemented without a level playing field. Support manuals (e.g. Emergency Procedures Manual and Post Instructions, etc.) can also be critical to an effective operation. Personnel files of your supervisors should contain scored tests taken to ensure they are conversant with operations. Procedural support is critical in identifying your security program and becomes a highly relevant �show and tell� when you�re under the microscope of an after-the-fact evaluation.
    • Loss Reporting & Incident Data Analysis: All business decisions are driven by data. This is also true with event safety and security. Where are incidents most likely to occur in your facility? Does this change with different events? What time of the day and day of the week are they likely to occur? Do certain seasons or weather conditions have an impact upon risk potential? Which risks are affected? What types of events are experiencing the greatest problems? What are the response times to calls for assistance? Can you accurately measure if you are consistently responding to important events in a timely fashion? What are their frequency in relationship to a variety of special events? What defensive strategies mitigate the frequency of incidents more effectively. These data and many analyses are tracked by an �incident reporting system.� After each event, all incidents are entered into a relational database whose software is able to provide the types of reports that facilitate what security strategies will be deployed in future venues. The trick is be inclusive in entering all incidents. This involves adequate security staff training and a centralized incident data entry methodology. Once the skills are learned, it is not time consuming, costly, or inconvenient; but enormously helpful to a fluent and effective security program. After several years of collecting adequate data, event managers can foresee, for example, which visiting teams and other venues present a greater risk potential. It may be football or baseball, but some teams truly present a different security strategy than others. Do you know this instinctively or can you present data that supports your conclusions and will "sell" management on a better use of security personnel? Subtle differences can be identified and event planning can then be managed appropriately.
    • Technology: Technologies involved with crowd control and event management are often given a higher priority ranking than those discussed above by event planners as it something they can buy, expect will resolve security issues and where they do not have to be part of the solution. In reality, technology helps to support the management side of security, but can never replace or be as valuable as useful data, well trained staff, and event management�s involvement in planning and oversight. Examples of technology that can be useful (if well thought out and carefully integrated into staff�s use) are:
      1. Two-way radio communications and cellular phones.
      2. Closed circuit television with digital recording of particularly vulnerable zones where documentation of incident occurrence would be strategic to preventing future occurrence.
      3. Use of public address announcements and message boards.
      4. Use of access control and other security systems in non-public areas (e.g. locker rooms; executive offices, ticket sales offices, etc.) to minimize the need for posting valuable security logistics in these areas.
      5. Use of barriers and other crowd control techniques.
      6. First aid equipment, particularly defibrillators and other first aid equipment.

This discussion does not inclusively identify all strategies. The purpose is to impress upon the reader where they may be after a major incident and how they will be perceived in court or in the realm of public opinion. There is no such thing as a vanilla security program. Your program must be driven by data and that data must be directed by risk assessment. As we stated from the onset, any road may take you there, but be certain you will be comfortable with your destination and those who will be your host!

1 Special Event Security Management, Loss Prevention and Emergency Service, Chapter 2, pp.11-12, Alexander Berlonghi, M.S., Bookmasters, Inc., 1996.


3 The Special Event Risk Management Manual, Law Enforcement, Page 28, Alexander Berlonghi, M.S., Bookmasters, Inc., 1996.

Since 1981, Ira S. Somerson has been providing forensic support to the Plaintiff and Defense bars in premise security litigation and other matters affecting the security management and security service industries. To date, Mr. Somerson has consulted in over 300 security related cases and has testified throughout the United States.

See his Profile on

©Copyright 2003 - All Rights Reserved


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