With the festival and concert season kicking off in earnest with Slane Castle's Bon Jovi event this weekend, the principles of event security, and the problems you can encounter are essentially the same, says Michael McQuillan, head of leading Irish security firm Pulse Security.
Advising on how to stay safe as we head into the peak holiday festival season, Michael McQuillan says Irish audiences are generally good natured. Excessive alcohol, which can fuel both aggression and accidents, is generally the biggest issue, and varies according to the profile of the act and the ticketholder profile.
Stay Safe Advice from Pulse
A phone, (and a charger for weekend camping), is essential for keeping in touch with friends on-site, and with home. Pulse Security advise that you down-grade to an older phone for the occasion, though, as the theft of smart phones is hugely on the increase.
Split your cash, and zip it securely into three or four different pockets on your person.
Wear a concealed bum bag or neck pouch, and avoid large ruck sacks, unless camping.
Wear cheap bling, if you like, but leave the obvious valuables at home.
Don’t accept a drink or any stimulant from someone you don’t know, and don’t leave drinks unattended.
Remember to eat; and drink water or soft-drinks regularly too. A serious alcohol splurge in the first few hours could wipe out the entire weekend’s fun, so pace yourself!
Stay with your group, and never leave anyone alone, particularly if under the influence, or unwell. There is safety in numbers. Agree a meeting point for fixed times of the day, if splitting up.
Do not intervene in a problem, unless absolutely essential for someone’s safety; alert security immediately if there is any trouble.
A security incident at a major event can do more than spoil a good day out. Always report dangerous practice or anti-social behaviour to the nearest security person or Garda, so that a problem can’t escalate.
Plan how you are getting there and, more importantly, know how you are getting home.
Get there early to avoid the last minute rush, and get familiar with the site in down-time.
If camping, only do so at approved controlled sites, where there is a medical and security presence, and proper facilities. Pitch the tent somewhere well-lit near other people, and ideally near event officials. Make friends with your neighbours!
A basic health kit, to include paracetamol, antacids, bite spray, sun cream, wipes and loo-roll, is a good idea.
Plan for all weather eventualities; bring rain gear, wellies, sun cream, shades, and a hat!
Only buy tickets from reputable sources; forgeries are picked up instantly.
Check event organisers’ websites for safety and security updates beforehand, and comply with instructions from security and event organisers on-site; there are regulations for a very important reason, generally your personal safety.
Don't leave anything valuable in your car; leave your glove compartment and boot cover visibly empty and open.
Relax; good festivals are busy and crowded at times! Go with the flow, and if you step on anyone’s toes, apologise and smile!
Pulse Security manages security consultancy and operations for some of the most high profile sporting and music events in Ireland. U2’s backstage security, the Europa Cup final, Heineken Cup final, international soccer & rugby matches, the RDS Horse Show, and last year’s Olympic torch visit are among the projects co-ordinated; and this summer Pulse Security will deploy staff at Irish concerts by Robbie Williams, Neil Young, Bon Jovi, Rihanna, Bruce Springsteen and Rod Stewart.
High profile security assignments undertaken by Pulse Security include security for visiting celebrities such as Leonardo Di Caprio, Tom Cruise, Mel Gibson, Justin Timberlake and Ashley Banjo of Diversity.
Event Security Unregulated
The fact that event security in Ireland is still unregulated is a serious concern for the legitimate security industry, Michael McQuillan of Pulse Security says.
“We need Government to urgently implement security regulation and licensing in the event sector. People’s safety, and potentially their lives, relies on the quality of security and the personnel at major festivals and events. The sector itself wants proper controls and regulation, so a tiny minority of ‘rogue traders’ don’t pose a threat to either the public, or the good reputation of the industry”, Michael McQuillan says.
For anyone concerned about the security aspects of an event they are attending, the advice is to contact the event organiser. The credentials of security operators can be checked with the Private Security Authority (PSA) here, if the organiser has contracted an Irish security team, and The Irish Security Industry Association (ISIA) also has information on licenced Irish contractors and individuals.
The Gardai, local authorities, emergency services, and security providers work in unison to plan and manage safety and security around major events, and this integrated approach, combined with a common sense approach from event goers, is essential to ensuring a safe and enjoyable summer festival season, Michael McQuillan says.
Michael McQuillan of Pulse Security is Chairman of the event security division of the ISIA, the Irish Security Industry Association, a member of the training and standards group within the Private Security Authority PSA. He is a former military reservist with the Irish Naval Service, a member of the International Bodyguards Association, a registered paramedic practitioner and internationally trained in both specialist security and emergency medicine and emergency management.