Crafting a plan and making sure your team is prepared
are essential to confronting risks both known and unknown

In today’s uncertain world, event organizers and host cities find themselves operating in complex multi-stakeholder environments. Among the challenges they may face are homegrown violent extremism, cyber-criminal attacks on data and IT networks, and event cancellations due to severe weather.

Within this uncertain environment, how can event organizers and host cities enhance their resilience to manage the known (familiar and consistent events) and prepare for the unknown (external and uncontrollable events)?

There are three proven concepts to support event professionals and event organizers to be mission ready: (1) risk-based event planning and decision-making; (2) “secure by design” principles for enhancing safe and secure guest experiences in crowded places; and (3) optimizing team performance and preparedness through operational readiness exercises.

Surprisingly, less than 33 percent of event organizers have documented their risks through what is known as a “risk register” a list of potential unwanted outcomes resulting from an incident, event or occurrence. Even fewer have identified and assigned a person to be responsible (risk owner) for assuring that appropriate risk-control measures have been implemented. This is not to say that event organizers are not actively managing risks but rather, most have not implemented a structured approach to event risk management to ensure that foreseeable risks are identified, assessed, appropriately mitigated (reduced to a level as low as reasonably possible) and continuously monitored and reviewed.

The 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the recent mass shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in California forever changed our mindset about which events could be the targets of violent, deliberate attacks. So how can we enhance the safety and security of our events? During the 2012 Olympic Summer Games in Lon-don, we adopted the “secure by design” methodology. The plan integrated design, people and process (soft measures) with technology and security barriers (hard measures).

This approach is equally applicable to all events, regardless of their size, scale and scope. Through understanding the level of risk and potential security threats to the event, event organizers and their security partners are able to adopt a more pragmatic approach to identifying and applying appropriate levels of security measures based on the event risk profile.

While plans, policies and procedures provide the foundation for successful event delivery, it’s training and operational-readiness exercises (tabletop exercises, walk-throughs, simulations and drills) that put the team in operation mode. That can be accomplished through a series of readiness exercises to prepare them to manage the known and enhance their ability to respond to the unknown.

While we may not be able to predict when and where an adverse security or public safety ‘risk event’ may materialize, event organizers still have the opportunity to proactively identify risks, assess the potential impacts and develop a proactive plan to ensure that your organization and event team are prepared and confident to respond and recover from adverse advents.