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DEFSEC Media is New Zealand's defence, security and fire B2B/B2G publishing group. Our leading magazines, NZ Security, Fire NZ - and our latest title - Line of Defence, are read by key business, government and military decision makers. This website is the online home of cutting-edge content from each of our titles.


 

Red Badge says ‘Hello’ to Adele… and the Blues and Pasifika

NZ Security Magazine, June/July 2017

Red Badge was there in numbers at three events simultaneously across Auckland.Red Badge was there in numbers at three events simultaneously across Auckland.

 

NZ Security speaks with Red Badge Security’s General Manager Glenn Simpson about the ingredients of a successful weekend of event security across Auckland.

 

The last weekend in March saw Auckland come alive with not only the highly anticipated and widely lauded three-show performance of singing superstar Adele, but also the hugely popular Pasifika Festival and an Eden Park Blues game thrown in. And Red Badge was there in numbers, providing security simultaneously across all three events.

The Adele show itself broke all kinds of records. For a start, it’s the first time an artist has performed three sold-out stadium shows in New Zealand, which included the Mt Smart attendance record of 45,000. The Sunday concert – the last of her world tour - was also the only show on the 119-date tour that it had rained at. And all through it, the red and yellow jacketed staff of Red Badge Security held their positions stoically as the heavens opened up and kept on giving.

Red Badge’s weekend kicked off on the preceding Thursday, with the first of Adele’s three concerts. But in actuality, the weekend had been months in the planning.

 

Planning months out

Preparatory work commenced around six months prior to the event. The Summer months, according to Glenn, is the busiest time of the year, and workforce planning starts from at least September, taking into account the known events on the calendar and any potential clashes. This is when staffing general numbers are worked out, any recruitment and upskilling is planned and the need for any specialist positions identified.

The first of three stakeholder meetings was held 3-4 months out from the event, involving a round table of 30 to 40 participants representing the likes of the St John Ambulance, NZ Police, Auckland Council, traffic management, Auckland Transport, ticketing companies, local businesses, and production companies. At this meeting, any side meetings required were identified.

For the weekend of 25-26 March, this involved coordinating planning for not only the Adelle concert on the Thursday, Saturday and Sunday evenings, but also the Auckland Blues versus Bulls game at Eden Park on the Saturday, and the Pasifika Festival at Western Springs over Saturday and Sunday.

“We’ve now got a blueprint for three nights and for other events thrown in, which shows us that we can do it and that it can work,” Glenn told NZ Security. “A lot of the hard work is done by our operations managers doing extremely long hours of planning and at the same time helping out with planning for the other events that are happening – a real team effort.”

‘Pack-in’ for a concert usually commences around one week before the show, as the road crew move in to set up the stage, artist areas and various structures erected specifically for the performance. Event-related infrastructure also starts to go in, including port-a-loos and any temporary ticketing, merchandise and/or catering structures

 

Unprecedented Scale

For the Mt Smart Adele event, Red Badge allocated 600 staff, with an additional 10% ‘spare’ complement to backfill any absences. This largely casual workforce ramped up over the course of the week leading up to the main event, with the artists’ area and backstage receiving coverage in earnest from the morning of the concert.

Meanwhile, 120 Red Badge staff were allocated to the Blues game across town at Eden Park, and 26 were positioned just one suburb on at the Pasifika Festival in Western Springs (with a further 16 guarding overnight). Risk factors dictated the lower numbers necessary for Pasifika – a largely family event strongly supported by a band of volunteers and police, and requiring guards to perform predominantly crowd control roles.

 

Assessing the risk

The final security schedule for the Mt Smart show was an amalgamation of requirements stipulated in a security rider provided by the artist’s security team as well as Red Badge’s assessment based on their knowledge of the venue, including factors such as the number of entry queues and exit points, the locations of merchandise stores and bars, audience expectations, and other activities occurring within the vicinity of the venue, both within the security perimeter and beyond.

With the event assessed as possessing a generally low level of threat, the focus of Red Badge staff was on crowd control and crowd management. This included taking into account considerations such as the fact that the Thursday night concert involved managing the potential impact on businesses operating in the vicinity, and managing contingents of out-of-town attendees who were likely to arrive at the venue significantly earlier than their local counterparts.

In front of a 45,000-strong audience, Red Badge’s 600 staff cut a ubiquitous presence. “We were really on show,” said Glenn, “had it turned to custard it would have been front page media.”

It’s often the nature of the artists or the act that dictates the likely threat scenario at such events. At the 4th February Guns ‘n’ Roses concert at Western Springs, Red Badge deployed 500 staff to cover a total audience of around 45,000 concert goers, with 24-26 staff making up response teams.

For that concert, the front gates were the key area, as the vetting of intoxicated ticket holders and patch-wearing gang members was the key focus. Preventing the entry of those failing to meet the requirements for entry meant that much of the potential risk was mitigated at the door. Once the management of attendee entry was complete, staff were then relocated to positions inside the venue.

 

Organisation

The Red Badge Group is organised around its three brands: Red Security, Red Badge Security, and Awesome Events. Red Security constitutes the group’s traditional security capability, explained Glenn, providing ongoing guarding services to clients that include locations such as the Waterview tunnel, MOTAT and Auckland Zoo, while the other two brands are events-focused.

Red Badge Security staff perform predominantly licensed roles at events, including access control, response teams and rovers, coverage of specific areas such as artists’ areas and front of house, traffic management, stadium perimeter, carpark surveillance and bag searching. Awesome Events staff fulfill ticket scanning, ushering, corporate hosting and fire warden roles. For the Adele concert, there were 50-60 ushers on the floor at any one time.

Having initially won the Mt Smart Stadium contract for security services only, a subsequent business case by Red Badge to Auckland Stadiums resulted in acceptance of the idea of a combined security and events solution. Red Badge Security and Awesome Events working together at the same event meant cost synergies and advantages in terms of coordination and command and control.

The seamless integration of security and ushering services appears to have hit the right note, with a number of venues now preferring this model.

According to Glenn, one of the most pleasing aspects of the concert was the positive feedback received from members of the public. The service afforded one attendee at the prompted him to write “Can I please pass on the most positive feedback regarding the usher responsible for B11 at the Adele concert tonight. She was very friendly and accommodating.”

It’s a small token, but taking to writing to express positive feedback isn’t something that comes naturally to most of us, and it’s a real indication of the difference that a customer-centric approach can make. “I’m absolutely wrapped that we finished off our biggest summer of concerts with overwhelmingly positive feedback from promoters, the venues and other stakeholders,” said Glenn.

With New Zealand playing host to a formidable line up of international sporting events and music concerts in coming months, the country’s event security providers will continue to be under the spotlight – not only for the positive atmosphere that their customer service aims to contribute to, but also for the effective management of risks and threats that is critical to the safety and enjoyment of the event-going public.

 

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