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Reverting to how event security used to be managed prior to March 2020 is simply not an option – covid-19 still poses a safety risk, and events must be organised and coordinated in a way that is safe for attendees, staff and the surrounding public alike.
In June, the contractor Atalian Servest provided security provisions for the G7 leaders’ summit in Cornwall, combining the physical presence of security officers, and technology. This was a significant undertaking for the company, which involved the deployment of near 850 people, from security officers to administrative support. Sam Butcher, Business Director, shares his learnings and takeaways that can be applied to managing security at high profile events in the new pandemic context.
Hosted by the UK government and organised by the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), the event was attended by leaders from: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, UK and the United States, besides representatives from the European Union, India, South Korea and Australia. First, it is important not to lose sight of the basics and let covid-19 overshadow other security risks that events of this nature inevitably carry.
The G7 was held across several venues around the Carbis Bay (St Ives) area which vary in nature. From the Eden Project (where the first dinner was held) to two venue hotels, Newquay Airport, a media centre, and personal search and remote vehicle search sites, the perimeter for this event was sizeable. One of the key considerations for us revolved around how to incorporate technology to always offer the most effective visibility. Here, Atalian Servest deployed 246 Perimeter Intrusion Detection (PID) systems – these are armoured, portable and visually verified alarms that trigger a notification with video footage and location details, allowing our rapid response teams and officers to react immediately when needed. Twenty-four CCTV towers with thermal imaging were also installed, providing 24-7 night and day surveillance – a superior solution to human-only line of sight that has obvious limitations over such large perimeters, especially in darkness. Meanwhile, two mobile rapid response vehicles were deployed to monitor cameras, these teams being supported by operators in our dedicated off-site control room for added resilience.
Managing the pandemic dynamic
Remote monitoring is just one critical aspect to consider when provisioning security for high profile events such as the G7. However, while it is important not to allow covid-19 protocols to distract from core security objectives, the pandemic was an additional risk that had to be managed with equal attention to detail. This required meticulous planning and communication between Atalian Servest, supply-chain partners and governmental authorities, especially around testing. For example, all officers were required to take a covid-19 lateral flow test one week, three days and the day prior to their arrival in Cornwall. Once at the G7, we adopted a three-barrier testing approach to prevent our colleagues from entering venues with covid. First, all Atalian Servest colleagues would test in their covid-secure accommodation. To board transport to venues, proof of a negative result would have to be shown. Likewise, once at the venue, a further demonstration of proof was required before entering. This was a huge, coordinated effort. We worked closely with government personnel to secure ample supplies of lateral flow test kits, and set up a rapid response system with the nearest PCR testing centre in case any positive later flow results emerged.
Any positive lateral flow result would trigger immediate isolation in specially prepared accommodation and a confirmatory PCR test. Hand delivered from the nearby test site, the courier would wait for the PCR swab to be carried out before returning, the result being delivered within 24 hours. The dedicated accommodation itself left no stone unturned in terms of safety measures – open air spaces and marquees, one-way systems, dedicated isolation areas, regular cleaning and sanitisation provision being just some of the extra pandemic precautions taken.
All large event security operations should also deploy a dedicated team of staff responsible for handling all aspects of covid-19 protocols. For example, at the G7 Summit, we used marshals to ensure social distancing rules and hygiene advice was adhered to. Meanwhile, our QHSE [Quality, Health and Safety and Environmental] team handled all testing and isolation responses, ensuring all precautions and steps were taken in the event of a positive result. This was critical, as it allowed security staff to concentrate fully on their roles in the knowledge that any covid issues were being handled – disruption and downtime being kept to a minimum. Indeed, of the near 850 involved in the security operation, only two positive lateral flow results emerged, one of which was confirmed as a false positive by a negative PCR test.
Looking ahead to COP26
The key to containing covid-19 throughout the G7 Summit had been paying attention to every detail – using the power of data and tracking to maximise safety and minimise disruption to the security operation. Atalian Servest were also responsible for security provisions, alongside the Police, for the COP26 conference in Glasgow, and we were able to draw on our experiences in Cornwall. The G7 has provided a ‘what good looks like’ template on how to manage high profile events in the pandemic context, but there are some areas we were looking to build on for when world leaders once again visit UK shores in November.
For example, we needed to expand our use of data to track and monitor covid. COP26 was a much bigger event with different accommodation set-ups for our colleagues – this also meant we required a larger QHSE team on the ground to seamlessly manage all pandemic protocols. Event security need not be compromised by additional COVID-19 measures and mitigations. Through careful planning, clear and constant communication with authorities, and deployment of dedicated teams, operations can run smoothly and safely for all.
Further reading: the Servator work around the G7 in Cornwall by Devon and Cornwall Police and others was featured in the November print edition of Professional Security magazine.