Steve Neal
29 May 2019 00:00

Security for the Events Industry

Steve Neal, NEC Group Operations Manager

As a leading organisation in the events industry we closely monitor security issues which may affect our live event venues. We liaise regularly with anti-terror and law enforcement agencies to help provide a clear picture of the security landscape as it pertains to our industry, and provide guidance and advice on addressing specific security issues.

Although the last terrorist attack in the UK was on 31 December 2018, where there was an incident at Manchester Victoria Train Station, the national threat level remains 'severe', indicating that an attack is highly likely. In the incident at Manchester Victoria, British Transport Police Officers responded to a man armed with a knife and swiftly detained him.

It's no secret that the UK's threat level has been elevated for some time, and whilst there are no current, specific, threats to an event or venue, attacks can happen at any time or place without warning. British security services and law enforcement agencies are investigating, at the time of writing, over 700 live cases. MI5, the British counter-intelligence and security agency, reports that it has over 3,000 subjects of specific interest, which has risen from a figure of 600 in 2017.

Reports last year indicated around 100 investigations into the extreme right-wing terrorist threats, and this threat is assessed as growing. Extreme right-wing terrorism differs from Islamist terrorism in that perpetrators are more likely to target ethnic and sexual minorities as well as politicians, broadening the range of potential targets.

Relatively recent events have demonstrated that new security threats can literally pop up at any time, as evidenced by the closure of Gatwick Airport before Christmas due to a drone, or unmanned aerial vehicle, being flown within the airport perimeter. The capabilities of even basic consumer drones means that they can now be used to create disorder by flying in the vicinity of venues and crowded spaces. This is clearly something that venues and events must be prepared for.

This year saw a new sectarian terrorist threat with the distribution of small improvised explosive devices in the post. It is suspected that dissident Irish republicans are responsible for sending them, and these incidents serve as a reminders that even seemingly dormant threats can erupt at any time.

As always, our watchword is vigilance. We need to be aware of the current threat level and remain alert to unusual or suspicious behaviour. The nature of any event, bringing people together, makes it a target for terror activity, and it's our job as venues to ensure we are communicating best security practice throughout our organisation, from top to bottom, and build security by default into our working culture as much as possible.