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Consistency of knowledge, duty, and execution

This is an excerpt from Managing Sport Facilities 4th Edition With Web Study Guide by Gil B. Fried & Matthew Kastel.

By Larry B. Perkins, CVE, CPP, CMP

I have found that a lack of consistency, knowledge, duty, and execution are the main reasons for customer complaints at venues. Where there is consistency, guests know what to expect no matter where they enter. Balancing customer service with safety and security has always been a question many security professionals are challenged with. Out of bad things, good may come, at least different methods might be learned. Case in point, after the 2017 Ariana Grande terrorist attacks in the United Kingdom, many venues incorporated sniffer dogs into their guest screening process, including PNC Arena. Much like after September 11, 2001, using metal detectors and wands, excluding a host of items from being brought into the venue, and other protocols were reexamined in light of new types of attacks.

What are the security elements or layers that are needed in today's environment? We try to balance safety and security with customer service; thus, a blend of elements is needed to give the appearance of easy and unintrusive security screening. In reviewing your screening approach with the idea of blending great customer service and the necessary security screening process, a three-tiered method, using defined zones, might be a way to achieve this balance. Each tier has its own purpose, but collectively they combine to create a comprehensive process.

Zone 1—Yellow (Deterrent—Hard Zone With a Soft Approach)

  1. Excluding the assumed hard zone elements already in place (such as rumble strips, bollards, guard posts, planters, etc.), the very first thing is the approach. You must make the guests feel welcome. If at first you go hard in engaging the guests, no matter what you do after that the guest cannot erase the negative feeling you have already instilled in their minds. In contrast, going soft with a friendly and welcoming staff is a must. Further, adding sniffer dogs as one of the first elements provides many benefits.
    • Most people love animals, especially dogs and horses (I've used both).
    • Detection dogs can approach guests even when it is not appropriate for staff to do so.
    • Using detection dogs outside is a deterrent itself.
    • You can investigate a hit (the technical term for an animal identifying a suspicious item), outside and away from the venue (see figure 17.1 for alert area screening location). This outside detection area should be away from other guests and away from the building.
    • You can sweep and sterilize the building before guests arrive (you can't do that with horses).
    • You can use detection dogs to patrol the parking lots while everyone is inside enjoying the event. (We had a hit on a vehicle during a concert. It was verified by another dog, but Raleigh, North Carolina, police wanted a third verification and called in their bomb dog. That dog also hit on the car…only he hit on the front and the others hit on the back.)
    • You can use dogs inside during the event as well.
  2. Staffers in the yellow zone are our eyes and ears—and our first line of defense. They check guests to see if they are meeting ticket license conditions to enter the venue; that is, if they are too imbibed, complying with rules regulations, following the dress code, being cooperative, and the like. If not, this is the place to weed out these problematic guests. It's better to deal with known situations there, rather than having to deal with them after they have created more chaos and with it, liability concerns.
  3. The yellow zone is also meant to soften guests for the upcoming red zone. At the next step, staffers have already established rapport with fans. In addition, staffers have shown guests that the facility takes safety and well-being seriously.

Zone 2—Red (Preadmission Screening, Secondary Wanding, and Admission)

  1. The red zone, hardline physical security, can be thought of as the security screening and customer service area, as opposed to the customer service and security screening areas, which are identified in the yellow and blue zones.
  2. The red zone is a hotbed and should be staffed by veterans who understand the tricks and deceptions, including taping items under and to the backs of arms and between legs, guests possessing and using multiple items with the hope that once they are found, then the screening process will stop. Again, this is the area where inconsistency of knowledge, duty, and execution is the most troublesome. One last concern in zone 2 is properly communicating policies and procedures so everyone is on the same page.
    • First, you must determine if your policies are clear and concise or whether they are they open to interpretation. Many venues leave their policies vague in an attempt to give staff room for commonsense judgment and room to give guests the benefit of the doubt, thus, customer service.
    • The good news is there is a way to achieve both. With hardline policies the staff can be thorough, with an option to refer issues to a higher authority who will make the decision. The person with the higher authority should be empowered to use good commonsense judgment. This approach gives the frontline staff an option and the guests will feel better about their treatment.

Zone 3—Blue Zone (Third Zone Screening With Soft Zone Touch)

  1. The blue zone provides another opportunity to observe guests after they have gone through the inspection process. Often, once guests and potential bad guys have completed the initial screening step, observing them in this setting may reveal a greater intent or inappropriate behavior. For example, are they actively looking for their seats or are they surveying the venue, are they alone, are they steady on their feet, are they clinging to something that seems fragile or being careful to keep steady? The key to this zone is being observant and taking action when necessary by alerting other security personnel to this behavior.
  2. Observing fan demeanor, asking questions, and watching their actions are all a part of the process for a holistic safety and security screening process. Thus, a facility manager cannot forget about zone 3, the blue zone in their planning.

Figure 17.1 The three zones to help protect a facility.

Figure 17.1 The three zones to help protect a facility.

Diagram courtesy of Larry B. Perkins, CVE, CPP, CMP

Policies and Procedures

While the aforementioned are critical action steps, it is important to remember that a facility manager must first develop solid policies and procedures in consultation with the facility's general counsel. Policies and procedures provide guidelines to everyone entering and using a property, they relay to guests what they can and cannot do. Managers should develop safety policies and procedures with this end in mind—knowledgeable guests are happier guests, which means repeat business. Policies and procedures (Ps and Ps) can also help eliminate or reduce lawsuits and reduce opportunistic claims. Ps and Ps empower staff and help them to be consistent in executing their duties through being proactive versus reactive. Types of safety Ps and Ps include

  1. facility and ground use;
  2. a promoter's guide,
  3. guest rules and regulations, and
  4. staff policies, rules, and regulations.

As an example, facility and ground use policies might include such subjects as these:

  • Loitering
  • Homeless persons
  • Early arrivals
  • Soliciting or distribution
  • Playing—ball or horseback
  • Skating
  • Swimming
  • Hunting and fishing
  • Hired automobiles
  • Scalping
  • Demonstrations
  • Vehicle idling
  • Air space and drones
  • Advertisement
  • Student drives
  • Tailgating rules
  • Food and other vendors

The promoters' guide might include the following:

  • Equipment
  • Approval of contracts
  • Cancellation clause
  • Insurance
  • Compliance
  • License and permits
  • Indemnity
  • Box office and admissions control
  • Objectionable persons
  • Opening hours
  • Refunds of ticket revenue
  • Announcements
  • Agreements to quit premises
  • Left-behind articles
  • Nonassignments
  • Rights to cancel the event, open doors
  • Rental
  • Storage space and time limit
  • Box office access
  • Deposits
  • Armed guards
  • Fire safety and OSHA
  • Local ordinances
  • Union regulations
  • Contracted services
  • VIP and reserved parking
  • ADA
  • Restrictions
  • Use of premises
  • Event description
  • License fee
  • Tickets—rights, manifest, and costs
  • Terms and conditions
  • Rights to set staffing levels
  • Force majeure
  • Marketing rights

These are just examples, but it is important to develop well-defined policies and effectively communicate these Ps and Ps so there are no questions about them from your guests, promoters, staff, and others coming to the venue. If a manager needs to take action to protect life and property, then creating plans will guide all future safety practices.