Managing security at an iconic central London venue allows absolutely no room for error. Recently, Integrated Security Consultants provided support for a lavish private event held at Horse Guards Parade. Brian Sims outlines the service delivery and what lessons were learned.
Destination and corporate event management specialist Spectra DMC approached Integrated Security Consultants (ISC) back in March regarding its plans for a gala dinner to be held at the London meeting of the American College of Trial Lawyers (ACTL). This was to be a highly prestigious and unique event on something of a grand scale, with a giant marquee erected at Horse Guards Parade and plans for no less than 1,000 covers.
Guests were to be welcomed by a choir while the troopers and horses from The Household Cavalry would form a Guard of Honour.
Crucially, although the event was private in nature, it would be taking place in a highly sensitive area, out in the open and right next to a major central London public road. The right security regime was vital in order to keep the site safe during the build-up to and during the event and to enhance the guest experience while ensuring that everything would run smoothly.
The event itself took place on 13 September, but chosen security provider ISC was on-site 24 hours a day controlling access to the site from four days prior for the build until the site was clear and returned to its ‘blank canvas’ state two days later.
“We had to work closely with the many different parties involved, all of whom had their own needs and expectations,” stated ISC’s business development manager Paul Griffiths. “These parties included not just our client, Spectra DMC, but also the Royal Parks, the Metropolitan Police Service, the various event contractors and, of course, members of the public.”
As well as managing the security of the site, ISC provided corporate security staff to welcome guests, manage local public interest and handle both traffic ingress and egress.
Planning and familiarisation process
“This event was 18 months in the planning,” added Griffiths, “and, naturally, both Spectra DMC and the ACTL had high expectations for the day. Every aspect of the event had to be perfect, from the catering and entertainment through to the security team. We spent six months planning and familiarising ourselves with the expectations of our client and ensuring full risk assessments were carried out. We also attended planning meetings with the Royal Parks so that we fully understood how the site operated and what to expect, in turn advising on security requirements.”
Griffiths continued: “The Metropolitan Police Service and Royal Parks wanted to ensure that all Health and Safety requirements were in place and that the site was secure at all times. We liaised with them and brought security cover forward by 24 hours to ensure that the very earliest stages of the build were covered.”
On the evening of the event, all access points were secured and a large crowd of onlookers had to be kept back so that all guests could be admitted during a short 30-minute window, transferring from coaches within seconds. Everything went smoothly, but there were some challenges to overcome.
“These were mostly logistical,” continued Griffiths, “such as some contractor vehicles turning up without pre-registration. Another challenge was that the site is usually easily accessible to pedestrians from Horse Guards Road. Rather than just station officers along the 160-metre perimeter, we were permitted the use of crowd barriers to provide an extra layer of defence.”
Griffiths went on to comment: “Unsurprisingly, holding such a glamorous event in a public place attracted a great deal of attention from passers-by, in particular when the Band of the Coldstream Guards arrived and played several numbers. The event also coincided with the nearby Proms in the Park, which resulted in large numbers milling around in the vicinity, but this didn’t pose any problems for our team.”
Recruitment of security personnel
ISC’s recruitment process is designed with an ultimate objective in mind: the provision of a high quality security service. The company’s clients can be satisfied that each member of the security team they receive on site has been through a comprehensive interview process which tests for competency, communication and customer service capability. The staff understand the high expectations of both their employer and its customers and have the experience of working at a wide variety of public and private events.
To complete the security package for a site on the scale of Horse Guards Parade, ISC provided a manager to fully instruct and guide the security team. The company is always mindful of the fact that security is in place to support the smooth running of an event and that event managers are, in general, exceptionally busy with other aspects of production. For this reason, ISC provided Spectra DMC with a manager to direct the security team on their behalf. Rather than worrying about positioning staff, this enabled the client to focus on its primary goal of ensuring this spectacular event exceeded all expectations within a safe and secure environment.
ISC’s success in securing this event is the result of a long history of working on other high profile events, often in spectacular venues, and a culture of listening carefully to clients’ requirements in order to build a bespoke security service.
Mark Wareing, account director at Spectra DMC, concluded: “Everyone on the ISC team was really helpful and great to work with. The security manager was totally flexible and we could just leave the team to their own devices.”
That’s what everyone involved in running and securing special events – be those occasions big or small in nature – wants to be able to say.
What to consider when hiring an event security solutions provider for your corporate events
Question (Q): What are the main services these companies provide?
Answer (A): There are a wide variety of security roles to be covered and security companies may specialise in different areas along the spectrum. Corporate and private events are very different from large-scale public events or nightclubs and require a more discreet, bespoke service that blends robust venue security with customer service.
Security staff are usually the first point of contact that guests will have with your event and their conduct will set the tone for the evening.
Q: How do you go about sourcing a reputable company that’s right for you?
A: The security industry has evolved considerably over the past decade, with licensing of individuals working in a security capacity through the Security Industry Authority (SIA) having been a legal requirement for the past decade.
However, just because an individual has passed a training course and holds a licence does not necessarily mean that person is right for your event.
Q: They might be great at patrolling empty buildings, but how will the officers interact with your guests?
A: Not all security companies are alike. What accreditations do they hold? The two most important to look out for are the National Security Inspectorate (NSI) ‘seal’ and the SIA’s Approved Contractor Scheme mark. Both are a sign that the company has high quality standards and are subjected to external audits.
The NSI’s ‘Guarding Gold’ also demonstrates conformance with the internationally-recognised ISO 9001 quality management standard along with several British Standards for security services.
Q: What are the top three questions to ask of your potential service provider at the outset?
A: Naturally, you will want to know what price you are paying for the security services offered. Expect to pay an hourly rate per officer for a minimum number of hours per shift.
Prices will, of course, vary from one company to the next, but as is the case with any product or service the age-old saying “you get what you pay for” is very apt here.
A high quality security company offering a high quality service will pay their staff a decent wage and, while they will not charge the earth, naturally they will not be the cheapest option for the purchasing end user.
You should establish a budget for security services early on in the planning process, allowing a little breathing room in case you require more staff or for longer periods than originally anticipated.
Q: How early on in a project should you make sure the security service is on board?
A: Security staff are often viewed as a ‘need to have’ rather than ‘want to have’ item on an event checklist. However, by viewing them as an integral part of the event experience and by bringing your security partner on board early in the planning stages, they will have the right amount of time to prepare and give you the best staff they have.
Rather than trying to guess how many security staff you’ll need, talk to your service partner and allow them to conduct a site visit to scope the requirement themselves and to perform a risk assessment. Site geography, threat levels and the event profile will dictate minimum staffing numbers, but the maximum depends upon your budget and key objectives.
The role of the security specialist is to make the service end user’s planning process as stress-free as possible.
Q: How can you evaluate the service you’re receiving?
A: As the client, your security partner should be asking you lots of questions leading up to the event. Each event and venue is unique and you should be receiving a bespoke service tailored to your exact specifications.
As the event planner, you will almost certainly be present on the day of your event. As with other services, it will be very apparent if you’re not receiving the standards of service you desire.
Consider paying for a security supervisor to manage the team rather than managing each security officer yourself. This will allow you to focus solely on running the event.
Q: What should you do if you’re not happy with the security service provided?
A: If you’re not happy, talk to your security partner’s representative to make them aware of your dissatisfaction. They should take steps to rectify the situation either immediately or for your next event.
If they don’t do so, it may be time to seek a new partner who can better understand your operational requirements.