Public Venue & Soft Target Security

Public Venue & Soft Target Security

Overcoming Safety Challenges in the Current Threat Environment

In response to a heightened safety and security threat environment, venue security and procedures also need to be heightened while still balanced with ensuring an optimal customer experience – increased collaboration between all stakeholders, plus the hardening of venues themselves, has never been more urgent.

Ahead of the inaugural Public Venue & Soft Target Security Summit 2017 we chat to Craig Sheridan, a retired Commissioned Police Officer Professional with over 29 years of experience, and Managing Director of Sheridan Consulting, who look after some of Australia’s biggest public events including the G20 Summit in 2014, the Rugby League World Cup, New Years Eve Sydney and Vivid 2017.

In this article Craig shares with us details of the comprehensive risk management strategies employed to overcome safety challenges at some of Australia’s biggest and most high profile events, with a specific look into the recent Vivid Sydney event.

Minimising Risk

Overcoming Challenges with Comprehensive Risk Planning

“The biggest challenge with an event like Vivid or New Year’s Eve is of course that they’re open, free access events. Looking after the safety and security of over a million people on New Year’s Eve on the one night, and 2.3 million people over the 23 days that is Sydney’s Vivid Festival (an annual music and light display festival spanning multiple locations across Sydney from the Royal Botanic Gardens to Darling Harbour, Circular Quay, Chatswood and Taronga Zoo) with no screening and multiple entry points is a huge challenge.

Recent terror attack across the UK and Europe highlighted the need to target harden a number of key locations ahead of this year’s Vivid event (which took place from the 26th May – the 17th June).

We work closely with the New South Wales Police Force, to target harden a number of different intersections and work in collaboration with them to monitor the outer perimeter for early risk detection – things like hostile vehicles, unauthorised people in designated event areas, that sort of thing.

With an event like New Year’s Eve or Vivid which not only are open and free access, but span a number of different locations it’s of the utmost importance to develop a consistent strategic management plan across all precincts that brings together everyone involved within the operation, from transport, police, ambulance, port authorities, fire brigades and of course Destination NSW, to ensure that everyone is collaborating to mitigate and treat against any risks.

Developing our strategic management plan really came down to stakeholder collaboration. We worked with every stakeholder from police, emergency services,  Department of Premier & Cabinet, landholders to patrons, along with Destination NSW to identify their perceived risks then put together a plan to mitigate those.

With an event like Vivid you have risks like patron safety at the water’s edge near Darling Harbour and Circular Quay, we had the risk of crowd crush and general crime and of course we had a terrorism risk too, so we were working really closely with our law enforcement agencies and intelligence agencies to make sure we got timely and early intelligence, and also with our contracted security providers.”

Prevention Strategies

Developing a Risk Management Plan

“For events like Vivid and New Year’s Eve, which the government declares hallmark events (major tourist events), we integrate a Strategic Command Post within our risk management plan at the Police Operations Centre or Government Coordination Centre.

With these large-scale events we have a lot of security personnel on the ground and an entire transport network, from buses to trains and ferries, to cover, so while we had one Strategic Command Post we also had an Event Operations Centre and a Transport Management Centre which we needed to integrate and have work seamlessly together to mitigate against all identified security risks across the precinct.

Underpinning all these management centres was a Crowd Control Strategy which outlined a number of crowd control actions as part of our risk management methodology to make sure people had safe ingress and egress at various precincts.

Strategies at this year’s Vivid event included fencing at major intersections, barriers, way finders and VMS signs. These methods were coupled with a strong communication strategy that went out with traditional media, and electronically, to give people clear direction on how to travel to the various precincts, what to expect, which way to walk, everything really, it was very comprehensive.

For example, with the Vivid light walk through the Royal Botanic Garden we mapped out a one-way only walk, which helped circulate people flow and alleviate pressure from people coming back into Circular Quay, which is where the majority of the crowds were. Everything was communicated really well throughout the whole span of the event and everybody listened and took on-board that information, which was great.”

Risk-free Culture

Balancing Safety and Experience

“With the current global environment it’s important to take a ‘worst case scenario’ point-of-view when developing a plan to overcome safety challenges at any public event, but especially in an open access environment.

Having developed our command posts, along with our crowd control strategies and various operations centres, we then needed to communicate and coordinate them, along with our security personnel on the ground, together to develop a really comprehensive strategy that accounted for all possible scenarios.

Pre-Vivid we conduct exercises with all our operations centres and security staff across the different precincts where we scenario tested worst case scenarios – so a drill essentially – for various kinds of disasters from weather events to explosions, terror attacks or threats from active armed offenders.

Every risk event comes with its own contingency plan where you can escalate up resources if necessary, and these scenario exercises really allowed us to test our response, our command and control posts, and our communication in dealing with threat events – the drills were essential in allowing all facets of our operation to come together and really understand the environment, the various threats, risks involved and the best solutions.

In an open access environment it’s impossible to screen everybody, but having comprehensive security plans and thorough strategies in place helps make the event more enjoyable for everybody involved. You need to communicate messages with event attendees and highlight that while certain restrictions on which way people can walk, or were they can go may be a slight inconvenience, at the end of the day we’re in a probable threat environment and these measures are in place for their benefit.

It’s all about balancing safety and security with the overall event experience for the patrons and participants”


If you’re interested in hearing more from Craig about the challenges of venue security in an open air environment and exploring in more detail Vivid 2017 lessons learned, target hardening strategies and disaster management planning, then join us at the inaugural Public Venue & Soft Target Security Summit.

The event, held at the Sydney Cricket Ground on the 24th – 25th of October and co-located with the Stadium and Arena Congress 2017 brings together over 12 security experts from the likes of the NSW Police, Venues Canberra, the Melbourne Cricket Ground, the AFL and ASIO.

To get into the nitty-gritty of venue hardening Craig, with his 29 years of experience on the NSW Police Force, will also host a specialised workshop on 23rd October exploring:

·       How to Create a Culture of Security while Managing the fan Experience

·       Best Practice Emergency Management Planning and Training

·       Hardening Strategies for Existing Venues

·       Precinct Security Emergency Management Planning

·       Protecting your Venue through Access Control Technologies

To secure your ticket to the event and workshop, and for special early bird pricing, simply fill in the registration form and email to

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