Americans are stressed. Whether it’s daily concerns about finances and family, or broader grievances about the state of the world, mental health is in decline.
In some cases, these feelings are manifesting as violent acts in schools or in the workplace. But for experts in venue security, the actions of just one aggressive person could have significant consequences.
Speaking at a recent VenuesNow Conference, a panel of security professionals representing high profile West Coast sports arenas concurred that security management at large entertainment facilities has become increasingly difficult. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is broad consensus that fan and guest behavior has changed for the worse.
Mark Herrera, Director of Safety and Security at the International Association of Venue Managers, echoed this sentiment. “People are definitely coming back to entertainment venues but with lots of new stressors,” said Herrera. “This makes for a more unstable environment and equals ‘facility vulnerability,’ creating a real challenge for venue managers and their staff.”
Furthermore says Herrera, “Facilities are running very lean which contributes to the challenge because it weakens their security posture.”
Where they can, many venues are adapting by implementing updated security tools and tactics—such as metal detectors or even K-9 units. However, they’re still seeing incidents of aggression and violence on the increase.
Even with modern security resources in place to mitigate the chance for items like weapons to enter a stadium or arena, it’s difficult to account for the mental and emotional baggage someone may be bringing along. That’s why training event staff in the art of de-escalation —the act of verbally guiding a potentially violent individual toward a more reasonable state—is critical.
According to William Flynn, Principal at The Power of Preparedness, “Many conflicts can be defused before they turn violent, but it does require training. De-escalation techniques go against our natural ‘flight or fight’ reflexes and require practice to become useful. The objective is to reduce the level of agitation so that a discussion becomes possible.”
“Facilities are very aware of the need to adapt and are using de-escalation to reduce anxiety levels, training their teams to understand behavioral patterns,” said Herrera. “They’re giving them the tools to detect, interject, remove, and not trigger situations.”
And sometimes all it takes is simply providing a guest with the right information. In his experience, VenuWorks Vice President of Risk Management John Siehl suggests that de-escalation starts with proper communication. “We train for the worst-case scenario,” said Siehl, but often “guests just want to clearly know what the policy is today” as it pertains to COVID or other regulations.
This sort of ground up messaging and readiness—along with more seasoned professional de-escalation education and techniques—can alter a venue’s security outlook and reduce risk in ways technology cannot. As entertainment venues continue to ramp up operations, it’s vital that event personnel both old and new receive the training they need to prevent altercations from going to the next level.
Mark Herrera from IAVM concluded, “The body can’t go where the mind hasn’t been. If we train people well, then when a situation develops, they will be able to act instinctively. But the mind must be trained so the body will follow.”
With expertise including active shooter preparedness and response, situational awareness, and verbal de-escalation, The Power of Preparedness provides critical guidance via company-wide online training that can save lives. Contact us to learn more.