On the day of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony, Chris Plimley, Sales Manager for High Security Products at Zaun, shares lessons learned on securing some of the most high profile events of the past two years and says collaboration, communication and consistency are the key.
I paid a visit to Glasgow last week and felt my excitement rising on the way into the city. The Scots and the wider British Isles are embracing our second multi-sport international games in two years. The thought of the 20th Commonwealth Games, which will feature athletes from 71 nations competing in 17 sports over 11 days from tomorrow, thrilled me.
Before the games begin, at 8pm tonight in a Celtic Park football ground that has been dramatically transformed with Europe’s largest LED screen covering the whole of the South Stand, more than one billion Commonwealth citizens will tune in the Glasgow 2014 Opening Ceremony and the story told by the ‘real and extraordinary’ people of Glasgow. No doubt final rehearsals are happening as we speak, last minute teething issues being ‘snagged’ and the smallest of details being attended to, as no stone is left unturned in the quest to deliver the best Games Glasgow can.
All of this takes me back to London 2012, almost two years ago to the day, and the lessons Zaun has learned from securing some of the most high profile events during that time. After all, if you make a mess of security at a major global event, you’re never going to live it down. Just ask G4S about the fall-out from its role at the London 2012 Olympics.
In my experience, everything seems to boil down to three critical Cs – Collaboration, Communication and Consistency.
London 2012 did so many things right. The crucial engagement of everyone involved in planning and delivery was started early. It was comprehensive and embraced all parties, and they maintained that collaboration right through the project. LOCOG and the ODA also built and maintained excellent communication throughout with all of the stakeholders – from athletes to volunteers, spectators to taxpayers, and contractors to media. However, late and significant changes in plans smacked of inconsistency and, if my experience of delivering major events has taught me anything, changing things last minute will scupper the best laid plans.
It causes rework, waste, extra cost and delay. It also introduces friction between a tight-knit team that is under collective pressure to deliver to an immovable deadline in the full beam of both media and political spotlights. You’re working as a team, and have together devised a sound security strategy, agreed personnel numbers and a definitive layout for overlay. So you can’t go changing things late in the day without expecting painful consequences.
This is where critical C number one comes in – Collaboration. Good collaborative planning ensures all security equipment can be manufactured in plenty of time, meaning there is perfect availability of product when the build for the event starts. It also allows for the development of completely new products to meet previously unforeseen security needs, as we ourselves witnessed with the London 2012 Olympics. It also means that new technologies can be considered and applied to provide new solutions. A good example, that Zaun trialled at last autumn’s Tory party conference for the first time, was to incorporate the latest Video Content Analysis cameras and monitoring into the security solution.
Gone are the days when PIDs were simply mounted on a fence. Now threats can be monitored, analysed and recorded in real time so that, for instance, the same person approaching the perimeter at three different points on three separate occasions can be identified, marked as a threat and potentially apprehended without ever touching the fence line.
Early collaboration ensures logistics and planning can be co-ordinated to maximum effect and efficiency. It allows for the identification of the right personnel in the right numbers (think G4S again) and gives time for them to be properly vetted, accredited and trained.
With forward planning, installers can devise detailed build schedules to ensure the safest working practices can be maintained, even under the most exacting timelines, with work often taking place in the tightest window, in the small hours of morning darkness, when public transport isn’t running and roads can be briefly closed and diverted. It also means that a fair share of risk can be agreed between teams, all with differing political, social, commercial and cultural mandates, that come together to pull off a major event, including appropriate penalties or liquidated damages (LDs).
If Zaun had failed to deliver the security cordon for the G8 Summit last year its LDs would have would have run to many tens of thousands per day of delay. That’s before taking into account any consequential losses businesses or organisers may have claimed in addition. Because you can rest assured that people, given a reason, will complain – and that’s where the importance of critical C number two comes in, Communication.
Major events, both while they are taking place and in the build-up to them, are always going to disrupt life for some. Whether it’s diversions and road closures, potentially affecting trade and workers’ commute, or the cost of staging an event – just look at the riots in Brazil before the Football World Cup at the claims of ‘misuse’ of public funds. Some will always feel they’ve been negatively affected or that their rights have been infringed.
Security contractors need to communicate closely and openly with governments, the police, local councils, residents and the media to ensure potential clash points are identified well in advance, mitigation plans are well understood and the overall greater good is a core aspiration shared by all.
If you’ve got your collaboration and communication right, that just leaves C number three. Consistency.
Stick to your plans – and if you have to change them, do it early, with comprehensive collaboration and complete communication.
With large-scale events, such as Olympic Games and the Commonwealth Games, the importance of consistency is multiplied a hundredfold. London 2012, for example, involved 26 Olympic sports and 20 Paralympic sports across 29 venues in 27 days – the equivalent of 541 concurrent days of sports competition.
So, fingers crossed, by the time you read this, all of those lessons will be proven to have been learned with a cracking Commonwealth Games getting safely and securely underway.
Let the Games begin! And go, Glasgow, go!
Chris Plimley is Sales Manager for High Security Products at Zaun Limited, a British manufacturer of high security event overlay and perimeter protection systems with regional offices in France and Dubai.