Interview with CEO of SKS Security Consulting

Sym Hogue, CEO of SKS Security Consulting

Sym Hogue, CEO of SKS Security Consulting

We sat down with Sym this week and chatted about the safety of events. Event security has become increasingly important as event professionals venture outside the design box, like hosting events in raw spaces.

We asked him 5 key questions we felt were the biggest take-aways regarding safety after having done so many events in raw space.

1.When should planners use access credentials for staff and when is it considered overkill?

There’s no such thing as overkill.  If you feel access credentials are going to increase the possibility that you’ll have a successful event, be safe and have it.  Sometimes you also have a client who is hyper-sensitive to security issues so you may have to beef it up just to make the client happy.  And access credentials could be as simple as having all staff wear black t-shirts with a letter on it.

On that note, there are 3 categories to determine the degree to which you provide credentials.

Facility: What kind of venue are you having this event in? If you have multiple rooms or places guests will be socializing in your venue i.e. a VIP room, determine whether or not you are going to restrict access to select areas.  Will your design or layout cause any hazards based on how the venue is laid out? Like the placement of a bar or stage. Will you be using any part of the venue as back-of-house where staff will be storing their personal items?

Event Type: Are you having multiple activities at the same time?  Based on your event, where are guests most likely going to socialize?  Are guests and staff expected to wear something specific? Are guests expected on a flow or all at once? If it’s a multi-day event, you may need credentials for the weekend pass, VIP pass for 2 days, etc...  There’s never overkill for that.

Guests: Are there speakers or performances of any kind? Will there be media, bloggers or influencers? Any celebrities attending? If yes, this means you’ll have to control access with credentials for speakers/VIPs in addition to the staff.

2. I found a security company where the guards are not certified fireguards and they're cheaper.  What's the danger in saving some money and hiring non-certified guards versus paying more to have fireguards?

There are some instances where you don’t need a fireguard: If you’re not filing for a TPA, if the venue doesn’t mandate it and if the venue has an active sprinkler system.

Now I don’t advise trying to save money for any security matters.  You’re saving money and potentially losing everything you’ve worked for. One mishap can wipe you out.   The amount of money you saved will not cover the expenses and cost of your time.

3. I've filed for a TPA (Temporary Permit of Assembly) and the Fire Marshall is expected at my event at any time during the day.  What can I do to prepare for the Fire Marshall's visit?

The inspection depends heavily on the Fire Marshall’s personality and preference. By law, the guards are required to have fireguard cards with your address on it and you should have a letter authorizing this guard to be a fireguard at the address where the event is being held.  They’ve been flexible with this rule and only require that the fireguard card (or F04) is current. You can go the extra mile and get the security company to send copies of the F04 cards before the inspection.

And keep all of your permits on file, including floor plans, fireguard cards, and any pertinent TPA documents.

4. How do you determine the number of security personnel necessary for my event?

The specifications on the TPA will tell you how many guards you should have - 1 fireguard per 100 guests is a safe number but there’s no building code that states the exact formula.  

And if you have an indoor/outdoor venue on a beautiful day, you can expect all your guests to crowd around outside. Be sure to add extra security in instances like these.

5. Other than keeping unwanted guests out, what are other responsibilities a security guard has during an event?

  • Security is the first greeting - the first salutation to your guests. Their first job is as an ambassador- representing the client, their mantra and mission. They’re also setting the precedent for the experience, for the event.

  • Having the presence of a security guard outside gives the tone to the type of event it will be -a safe one.

  • They’re also responsible for controlling the area for hazards and dangers - which come in different forms. I also tell my guards to look up and look down. Are there glasses in an area that may be hazardous to guests, are the guardrails on the balcony high enough for people to lean on?

  • We need to also be in constant communication with the client for any updates:

    • Inform the client of any changes to the environment i.e. sudden downpour when 400 guests are expected

    • Get any changes to the timeline or VIP arrivals from the client