Licensing systems for event security is paramount, says Magenta Security’s Abbey Petkar

In today’s world of heightened security, never has there been more of a reason to establish a licensing system for event security firms, so says Abbey Petkar, managing director of Magenta Security

In the aftermath of the tragic shooting in Las Vegas, security at events is once again under the spotlight. There has never been a greater need to know who is at or in the vicinity of your events. Sadly, the nature of that particular shooting means that no amount of on-site security measures could have helped. No doubt the pro-gun and anti-gun lobbies will use it as a rallying cry for their own agendas but in the meantime, it is hard not to feel a little vulnerable about the concept of the “lone gunman” who in reality would never have been stopped by event security.

That said, event professionals have a need and duty to not just ensure their events are as safe as possible but also communicate that fact, building trust amongst their attendees and audience. They need to know who is on site, why they are there and what they have with them. Whether they are staff, a stakeholder or attendee. One step in the right direction to achieve this is the use of properly licensed security guards. It seems like an obvious statement but it may not be as easy to achieve as you might think. Just this year there was a high-profile case where a guarding company provided guards with cloned Security Industry Authority (SIA) licences. It raised issues of professionalism amongst security suppliers but also flagged the need for organisers to ensure the recording of details for all guards on site, including their licence numbers.

The world is smaller than it has ever been before and there is a need to think beyond our own spheres of influence, to understand everything that can impact our own business and activity. For event organisers the issue of rogue traders amongst security suppliers is one to consider. It may surprise many to learn that there isn’t a single licensed security firm in the UK because there isn’t a system for licensing at an organisational level. Anyone can provide individually licensed guards but there is no legal system in place to ensure professionalism, trust and credibility.

What therefore can you do to safeguard your events from such situations? Firstly, appreciate the fact that in security, like any other industry cut throat prices and poor standards go hand in hand. Beware the low-cost options. You must interrogate and examine your supplier to ensure they will deliver what is needed. You no doubt check your AV suppliers and catering contractors have the necessary health and safety procedures. Security should be no different.

You could also consider checking to see if your security supplier is part of the SIA’s Approved Contractor Scheme (ACS). Whilst voluntary, it provides a framework for professionalism amongst providers. It also demonstrates an organisation’s willingness to be scrutinised and have their quality verified by a third party.

I also ask you to help us lobby for a business-wide security licensing system. They are not a new idea as the concept was first mooted in 2014. But here we are, three years on and we are no closer to a formalised legal system to establish the credibility and professionalism of security companies. And sadly, with Brexit filling the Government’s legislative agenda it is not likely to progress. Such a regulation should ensure that all legitimate security service providers are licensed at a firm-level – in addition to the individual officers. It would benefit legitimate companies in terms of quality assurance and subsequent sales but most importantly, it would benefit you, organisers, who would be safer and more trusting of their security partner.

Sadly, we can’t stop every threat facing the public at events – the gunman in a distant window is just too much of an unknown quantity. However, we can make sure we know who is on site, why they are there and what they are carrying. We can do our best to make every event as safe as possible. You are professional event organisers, make sure in turn you use professional security providers.