Focus on safety and security at events never higher, expert says

As AEG’s senior vice president and chief security officer, Matt Bettenhausen has overall responsibility for security, safety and preparedness for AEG’s domestic and global operations and facilities.

Bettenhausen’s resume makes clear why he’s the ideal man for the job: Before joining AEG, Bettenhausen led California’s homeland security and emergency management operations. He has held senior leadership positions with many national and state organizations, was a board member of the Western Institute for Food Safety and Security, and served on the external advisory board to Sandia National Laboratories.

VenuesNow caught up with Bettenhausen in light of the recent announcement that he was headed to the U.K. to open the third Event Safety and Security Summit (E3S) Oct. 8 at the Congress Centre in Central London.

How would you sum up the state of mind event promoters and venue operators around the world in terms of safety and security at live events?
The focus on safety and security has never been higher, in my experience, and that is across all segments of the industry — operators, promoters, entertainers, athletes and fans. There is better communication in the industry and better sharing of best practices for safety and security. As an industry, safety and security must remain our first priority.

What are the most pressing security concerns in 2019?
The threat of terrorism remains a concern. Law enforcement around the world continues to improve their counterterror efforts; however, they are stretched. They face challenges from the number of radicalized individuals with training and combat experience that have returned or seek to travel from war zones.

We have also seen law enforcement struggle with countering the potential threat posed by drones. The influence of social media in fomenting extremism and inspiring violent acts is a continuing concern.  Weapons, explosives and vehicles are still the principal instrumentalities of choice that challenge security efforts.

Cybercrimes continue to expand exponentially and they represent an everyday threat, and the threat evolves so rapidly.  Our industry is very dependent on technology and it can be a blessing, as well as a curse. I am really looking forward to the cyber security discussion at the summit.

Are there significant differences in how professionals tackle matters of security around the world? Or is the worldwide live entertainment industry mostly streamlined when it comes to safety and security?
Safety and security has improved across the globe. Not all countries have as robust safety standards as you see in the U.K. There are differences that you see in security measures, such as the use of magnetometers.

Perhaps the biggest driver of recent change has come from the entertainers and performers themselves in putting safety and security requirements in their contracts.

When it comes to global tours, there is a pretty good consistency in safety and security measures. There can be more challenges for security professionals, of course, with one-off events and events that do not have the budgets of global tours.

There is uniformly better cooperation, communication and collaboration with our first responder partners and our industry than ever before.

Just recently, people died in a stampede at a concert in Algiers. How much time will E3S dedicate to organizational threats, compared with outside threats like terrorism or weather?
E3S does a fantastic job in holistically looking at threats and risk. We must be in the all-hazards planning, preparedness and response business. Terrorism will remain a threat for some time, of course, but from a risk perspective, it is less likely to occur than a cybercrime, bad weather, fire or unruly crowds.

Anytime you have mass gatherings, crowd management must be a priority.

Unfortunately, Algiers was not an isolated example of this risk. Performers and fans can also play an important role in helping to prevent such tragedies. Given the importance of crowd management, E3S has some great presentations planned for the summit this year.

If you look back one year, what are the most outstanding advancements in terms of safety and security at live events that you’ve observed since E3S 2018?
The improvement in camera technology and artificial intelligence to help filter and alert to unusual circumstances continues to advance rapidly. Situational awareness is critical and cameras are such an important tool in bolstering that awareness, as well as resolving issues.

The vast amount of high-quality video is great, but we are also limited in our ability to effectively watch everything. That is what is exciting about the advances being made in the technology to help us filter information and direct our attention to potential problems or issues.

One of last year’s takeaways of E3S was that the industry needed to share best practices more. Where do you see this business in terms of meaningful cooperation and sharing of best practices when it comes to safety and security at live events?
The E3S event is really a great forum for exchanging ideas and sharing best practices. We all have incredibly busy schedules and the summit is an opportunity to meet with colleagues from the full spectrum of the event business. We all know it is also easier to pick up the phone or shoot off an email after you have met someone. The connections are great if you need to ask advice, share concerns or simply find out how a tour is going and what to expect.

What will you talk about in your opening keynote?
Come to E3S to find out!