There’ll always be risk … but it’s how you deal with it

new-balance-990-boston-marathon-2014-2Juxtaposed against the saga of the Sheffield Half-Marathon, the Boston Marathon this weekend seems even more poignant.  What happened at the 2013 Boston Marathon is an event manager’s worst nightmare.  There is very little one can do to really control this but there is a huge amount we can do to manage the risk.

Before I go any further, I wish all those who were affected by last year’s bombings hope and happiness and a huge well done and thank you to all those who are running this year, raising thousands of dollars for charitable causes.

So what can we do to protect ourselves against a bomb blast? The big problem is that the most likely targets are those with high attendance and high profile which means that it’s the large scale open events like marathons or celebrity appearances or Christmas lights switch-ons or city-wide festivals that attract the attention of potential threats.  There is very little we can do to directly control where public go and how they interact with the event – or is there?  We can certainly increase stewarding and increase the capability of those stewards so that should the worst happen, you have a means to evacuate and the team works to minimise the impact.

We could consider ticketing those open events but this is a logistical nightmare and presents significant costs which, for most of these events, are untenable.  We could consider screening all those who attend but again, this is costly and not necessarily effective.  We can definitely liaise with local and regional Police to get their input into how to manage the crowds effectively to reduce public order issues and also to gain their feedback on the likelihood of threats and current intelligence.

So we are left in a position where we can really only respond to circumstances but our response is an area that we can control.  We can plan for the worst; we can bring others into that planning process so that there is a broad comprehension of the challenges and responses across the project stakeholders; we can brief our teams and provide training for volunteers so that everyone knows what to do; we can communicate to keep everyone up to speed and highlight any issues, changes or actions required.

All of these mean that we as event organisers and our wider team are prepared and hopefully we’ll never have to use that preparation. Or when something else happens, like water not being delivered, we’ll have a means to respond ensuring that the event goes ahead as smoothly as possible. So, all credit to the organisers of the Boston Marathon who dealt with last year’s bombings with calmness, consideration and humanity, working hard to save as many as possible and who have drawn on all their resource to make it
all happen this year.

Claire Eason Bassett, Managing Director, Mackerel Sky Events


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