Dear Event Doctor:

The NFL instituted a new policy this past season limiting the size and type of bags spectators can carry into games. Our event doesn’t have as many spectators as an NFL game, but do we still need to be considering similar policies? How do we communicate and enforce such changes?

—Safe and Sound

Dear Safe:

Repeat this mantra to yourself and others as often as you can: Safety is non-negotiable. This truth extends to how you design, plan and operate your event. The degree to which you develop your security protocols will not simply be based on the number of people attending. It will depend upon a host of factors, including your specific market and venue, the world condition at the time of the event, media exposure and more.

Most of all, listen to the advice of law enforcement and security professionals. They live in a world that we event organizers don’t, and it is sometimes a scary place. It is important for every event owner to assess for themselves—with help from their local law enforcement authorities—how deep their security plan must go to ensure the safety of their fans, participants and staff. They may be satisfied with visual inspections of bags, or they may order searches, pat-downs and a robust list of prohibited items.

There are operational concerns as well. The more enhanced the security procedures at your event, the more they will affect crowd flow. The prescribed security measures come first; after that, you can determine the operational support needed to help facilitate entrance to the host facility in the most timely and convenient way possible. To help maintain a good flow of spectators into the event, you may need more points of entry, or a measure such as instituting the use of clear plastic bags for fans’ belongings.

Where possible, communicate security measures with fans in advance of their arrival. Measures may include posting lists of prohibited items online, printing them on the back of tickets or inserting a flier in ticket envelopes. If you have an event app, include the list there. Circulate a press release to the local media and conduct a press conference to discuss the security measures. Consider posting security information at the entrance to parking areas and handing security fliers to arriving fans as they enter the lots or as they leave the parking area for the facility. This way, they can leave prohibited items in their vehicles. Fans should know about the prohibited items before they hit the queues for security screening. Let them know you are undertaking these measures for their own protection. Safety is non-negotiable.

This first appeared in Sports Travel Magazine and appears here courtesy of SCHNEIDER PUBLISHING COMPANY, INC.