Several public venues, including facilities hosting sports, concerts, and other events, have begun to trade out traditional technologies for frictionless screening solutions. Providers of these solutions promise to increase the fan experience without reducing screening capabilities. The potential can be polarizing, increasing the need to understand the technology and evaluate the unique needs of your venue.
The purchase and deployment of technology is one of several ways organizations solve problems. While technological solutions can offer increased productivity and efficiency, it is important to think through operational needs and benefits before deciding on a solution.
Below are five questions to ask when determining whether a security solution is right for your public venue:
1. What is the need and goal?
The first step should always be understanding your operational needs and establishing goals. Start by understanding the problem. This is often accomplished through operational environment assessments and focused reviews of the current risk assessments, available data, and key performance indicators (KPIs).
Remember, you are the expert on your organization. Understanding your specific business needs will guide your review and help protect your organization from paying hefty fees for capabilities you may never use. While a solution might be good, it may not be a good fit for your organization.
2. Is technology needed?
It is essential to think through how to address identified needs. Needs can often be addressed through training, practices, and procedures. In other instances, technology could be necessary. In addition to identifying your needs, this step can assist in prioritizing efforts and spending.
3. How will the solution impact other departments and stakeholders?
After understanding your needs and determining that technology is the answer, meet with other departments and stakeholders. There are likely competing priorities within your organization, and you should align your team before bringing in vendors. While you are unlikely to solve everyone’s problem, you could be impacting other departments and employees.
For example, when considering a patron screening solution, you will need to determine how the technology will affect patron experience, wait times, ticketing operations, staffing, and concessions. This step allows you to explore the viability of a solution and identify potential issues with onboarding.
4. What is the return on investment?
With safety and security solutions, this can be a difficult task. We should start by capturing the cost of the technology. This estimate should include the initial deployment, recurring licensing requirements, maintenance, and training. Once we have an idea of the cost, we can investigate returns. For direct returns, we might calculate profits expected from sponsorships or savings through the reduction of staff.
Indirect returns can be more challenging to estimate and difficult to quantify. An indirect benefit might be increased efficiency and enabling employees to perform their roles better and faster. When evaluating indirect returns, it is essential to consider the operational impact a solution will have. You should reach out to other organizations that can share their experience with the technology. It can also be helpful to identify the consequences of not addressing the need.
5. Which solution is best for the need?
When possible, several solutions should be considered before making a decision. When participating in demonstrations or trials, focus on how well each solution meets your identified needs. Remember to rank solutions based on how well they meet your needs; wants should be secondary. You should ask for and review available operating instructions, training materials, independent reviews, and any solution certifications (e.g., DHS SAFETY Act).
Many solution providers also offer a trial period, which provides the opportunity to further explore the solution in a smaller scale. Doing so can also assist in better understanding the operational considerations and potential ROI.
To assist venue managers and operators in navigating these types of solutions, the National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security (NCS4) worked closely with providers, practitioners, and governing bodies to develop the Venue Managers Guide for Evaluating Patron Screening Solutions. In collaboration with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency (CISA), the NCS4 also produced the Touchless Screening Annex, which offers best practices for non-contact screening procedures that stakeholders may implement in addition to the screening procedures outlined in the Public Venue Security Screening Guide.
Daniel L. Ward is the Director of Training and Exercise at the National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security (NCS4), an academic center housed at the University of Southern Mississippi and partially underwritten by grants from DHS and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.