What factors affect the number of security guards required at an event?

The question of “How many security guards are needed for an event?” is often raised by local authorities and event organisers requiring event security, crowd management and safety staff.

Some organisers may lean towards the cheapest option and rely on favourable ratios of security to patrons. For others, it can sometimes appear quite challenging to establish the number of security staff required, to balance cost, satisfy legislative requirements and manage the security requirements the event may be exposed to.

However, either way, it’s imperative that organisers get this right. As an event organiser you need to plan for normal and emergency situations, both of which can be better managed with appropriate levels of well trained, uniformed staff as an invaluable resource for the full spectrum of issues that can occur.

There are some key factors that need to be taken into consideration when establishing the number of security staff required. These include, but are not limited to:

  1. Type of Event: 

    Is it a festival attracting young people from around the world, a sporting event with two fierce rivals competing, or a family focused event spanning all age groups? Is the event indoors, outdoors or a mixture of both? Is this the only event on that day, or are there a number of other events with similar or differing crowd profiles in your locale? Is the event free or ticketed? If it is ticketed, has it sold out, or is it likely to sell out? If it is a free event? What has historically happened and how much marketing is taking place (including social media)? Is the event in an engineered purpose built facility, city centre, or greenfield/urban site? Is the event layout the same as previous years or has it changed? Are transport hubs (train/subway/underground) nearby and/or car parks being used to accommodate the attending audience? Are parents likely to be dropping off and collecting their children? Does the event have high value goods as part of the overall event? Is there camping on site and is the event over multi days? What kind of ticketing system is in use and are wristbands required to identify legitimate customers?

  2. Crowd Demographics: 

    What is the age group attending? What is the male and female split of the audience? Are there any historical incidents with this crowd? Can you expect audience members to travel from other parts of the country or from other countries? Different crowds require different staffing needs and requirements.

  3. Staff Responsibility: 

    What are the license conditions for your event? What requirements are placed upon you in terms of external areas? Have roles and responsibilities been clearly defined and are they understood by all stakeholders? Are there sufficient levels of staff to fulfil the roles and responsibilities, when considering the venue, event, crowd profile, artistes etc? Are there a wide range of areas with restricted access, queue management, bar areas, front of stage barrier systems, VIP areas, backstage, emergency routes etc? How many response teams are required and what area have they got to cover? What is the event duration as staff may require breaks to conform to legislative requirements, extreme heat, humidity and cold etc?

  4. Venue Size: 

    Is the venue adequate in terms of space after temporary structures, concessions, sponsored attractions, merchandise, fencing and front of stage barriers? Is there sufficient space available for ingress, circulation and egress? Has arrival and departure been considered in the crowd management plan? Does the site layout allow for good circulation or pockets of increased density? Do the crowd flows reflect on the number of ingress points and lanes the venue can provide? Are there sufficient exits considering the risk profile, event duration and flow rates? What is the topography of the site and how is the ground underfoot? Is the site intricate, with a number of sub areas, or is it a clear open space with clear vantage points for monitoring?

  5. Quality of Staff: 

    How many other events are the security company committed to that day or night? Is the company big enough to manage your event? Do they sub-contract staff, and if so, what is the quality of the subcontractor’s and how much experience do they have? A smaller, more experienced group of staff will serve you better than a lot of new starters who need more supervision. What is the ratio split of managers, supervisors, security and stewards and ushers? Do you know the management and supervisors who will be working at your event?

  6. Ratios of Staff: 

    In my own personal experience of managing security at a wide range of major events around the world, the notion of ratios is far too generic and inaccurate. Each event must be assessed on it own merits and specific idiosyncrasies, by competent people in consultation with security providers, artistes representatives, promoters, site managers, local authorities, the venue, police, etc. The ticket sales will always impact staffing levels but despite this, there should be an agreed staff level that serves as a skeleton requirement no matter what happens. Staff levels should be dynamically assessed as more information becomes clear. In terms of staff quality, event organisers should be clear in what they expect from their security provider as this can differ enormously. Staff briefings are an essential component for any event and should be supported by an effective command and control structure within the organisation. There is little point in having 20 supervisors and 10 security staff. Likewise, there is no point having 1 manager and 40 security staff without supervisors. Security staff should be readily identifiable with individual ID numbers visible that relates to the person wearing the uniform.

Dependent on the size and type of your event, it is worth considering engaging an independent person to oversee security and be the liaison point between the promoter, artistes, the local authority and the security provider(s). This person should be familiar with the role of event security, a good communicator and have no hidden agendas. There should be a tangible process where staff are accounted for to determine any shortfalls in staff numbers, skill set, capability and a set time for briefings, which should be logged.

Security are often the first and last representation that your audience encounter when arriving at your event. As such, security are ambassadors for you, and a representation of what your event stands for in many cases. Security are mobile points of information who should be approachable for a wide range of questions, a physical presence that prevent crime and disorder, a uniformed presence to protect all persons attending to enable them to have a safe and enjoyable day, and a go to point when children or colleagues are missing.

Managed correctly, combined with suitable and sufficient levels of training/staff numbers, event security contribute to the safety and success of any event. Event Security can have a positive or negative impact on your event, or a combination of both. Nevertheless, in a world where terrorism is an increasing threat to crowded spaces, can you really afford not to have the best you can get?