July 29, 2019

Protecting an outdoor event in a large venue poses security challenges, as shown by the events that transpired at the Gilroy Garlic Festival. USA Today reported on event risk management for events, especially when outdoors. "The folks in charge of providing security at the Gilroy Garlic Festival relied on the industry’s best practices, employing tall fences and metal detectors and coordinating among several law enforcement agencies. They responded to Sunday’s assault within a minute and neutralized the shooter despite being outgunned. And yet they couldn’t prevent a tragedy – three deaths and at least 12 people injured."

Mike Susong, Senior VP for Global Risk Services, was quoted in the USA Today article: "the officers took the correct preventive steps, based on 40 previous years of such festivals." Industry experts recognize that no plan is foolproof and there are basic security challenges such as lack of built-in protections of solid buildings and large crowds. 

Susong said, "'I was in downtown for the Fourth of July in D.C. and I would say Gilroy used a lot of the best practices they had there,' mentioning the six-foot perimeter fences, bag searches and metal detectors at the entrance, along with a police command center on the premises. However, Susong acknowledged the suspect likely avoided metal detectors and gained access using a tool that can be easily purchased at a hardware store for $40, highlighting a vulnerability that may need to be addressed at this and other events in the future."

Mike Susong acknowledged the need for an updated event risk management plan because of the area of vulnerability found: “'That does become an area that now maybe needs to be more vigilantly monitored, but I’m not in any way second-guessing the job the Gilroy law enforcement did.’’

WorldAware intelligence experts recommend being especially cautious in or limit time spent in areas where you are more likely to be victimized. These areas include festivals, crowded subways, train and bus stations, elevators, tourist sites, market places, packed bars, sports stadiums, and marginal areas of cities. It is also advised to take basic security precautions, such as leaving an area should protesting occur. If violence erupts or is imminent, leave the area as quickly as possible. If you cannot leave the area, seek shelter in large, public buildings such as hotels, churches, hospitals, and museums. Wait until the crowds have dissipated before going back outside.

Read more about the security challenges of outdoor events.