When choosing a venue for your Christmas party, don’t just focus on the menu and the décor. No matter how good a venue’s first impression, the night can still go terribly if there is inadequate security on site.
Unfortunately, it’s becoming increasingly common for venues to reduce their number of security guards and replace them with stewards. Events that used to be kept safe by teams of professional, trained and licensed security guards are now largely staffed by students doing part time evening work.
Don’t be fooled by the appearance of a well-staffed venue. Enquire about the number of trained security guards and you may quickly realise the site isn’t nearly as secure as it seems. While the appropriate number of security guards varies on a site by site basis, you should expect there to be around one guard per 10 guests.
You do not need a license to be a steward, meaning that there is no minimal level of training they are expected to have; it’s all left to the discretion of the venue. Some may train their stewards in health and safety, crowd control and hospitality, but generally all they’re expected to do is check tickets, take coats and show people to their seats.
Many stewards are supplied by temporary work agencies and may only be working at that venue for that night, giving them no time to become familiar with the site, its risks or the correct evacuation procedures.
Unless the government decides to make being a steward a licensable function – and I’m really not sure why they haven’t – you need to bear in mind the limitations of what a steward can provide. Just because you see a lot of people standing around in high-vis jackets doesn’t mean the venue is safe and well organised.
This can have severe consequences in emergency situations. Stewards are not obligated to prevent criminality or provide health and safety support and there is no expectation for them to do so.
Regardless, patrons will approach stewards for help because a high-vis jacket carries the association of someone who can provide support. However, most of the time, the best they can do is get someone else, during which time the situation can worsen.
At Magenta Security, we’ve experienced the consequences of replacing security with stewards first-hand.
Last year, at a large event hosting multiple companies, the venue where we would usually provide 40 security guards only asked us to provide 20 officers due to budgetary concerns.
As expected, when our security guards arrived, they found that the lost manpower had been bulked up with stewards who – at a glance – looked indistinguishable from security staff in their high-vis jackets.
This was a packed venue with many people under the influence of alcohol, which the stewards had no idea how to deal with. In fact, the stewards made our job more difficult, as they were more likely to be a hindrance than a help when problems inevitably occurred.
By the end of the night, the police had to be called to diffuse the situation. In our report to the venue, we found that the number of incidents had more than doubled over the previous year. Which is no surprise: half the security, double the problems!
Not only did the venue have to deal with twice the number of incidents and complaints, their reputation would have been tarnished. No company wants to host their Christmas event at a venue where police have to show up to calm things down.
As I always say, trying to save money by cutting vital security is a false economy. Patrons expect events to be safe and well-managed and there’s only so long a venue can get away with hosting events that devolve into chaos before people simply stop showing up.
We provide security for events of any scale, from internal company Christmas parties [link to other blog] to industry events with hundreds of attendees. To learn more about how we can make your event safe and incident-free, call our award-winning customer services team now on 0800 772 3786.
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