How to use the power of knowledge to strengthen the event industry
Interview with Marit Elders, Founder, Event Safety Academy
Holding a ticket to a big event is a matter of the heart, nothing compares with the joy and anticipation of being part of something big and meaningful. You can only hope that the event you are attending is not going to be added to the list of traumatic events like the Manchester and Las Vegas shootings, or the crowd rush in Duisburg.
Are the big players of the event industry, local governments and emergency services prepared for every type of security and safety issue the modern world could bring? How can proper planning, a good venue design, and resilient safety organisations help to prevent and deal efficiently with any possible accidents or incidents?
We met Marit Elders at the Powerful Business Women Network in the Netherlands, and she told us about her company, Event Safety Academy, which offers safety solutions for the big players of the event industry.
What inspired you to create The Event Safety Academy?
As a young girl I was always around the safety & security portacabin of events as a volunteer. One day when my father came back home from the construction of this event, his face was pale, completely shocked. He stood nearby when a 23 years young woman was run over by a spike. Causing serious injuries. In that moment, I felt the importance of the coordination work that was being done in the portacabin and I became aware that it was in charge of people’s lives. Later on, the girl and I became friends and worked together on the event. We hear ‘the worst kind scenario never happens’ a lot, but when it does, life changes dramatically. Organisers are responsible for lives when planning and producing events, as are local governments when approving or declining them. Of course, total safety is an illusion, but decision makers need to be conscious about the risks. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
What are your responsibilities?
As founder of the Event Safety Academy, I help municipalities and emergency services to further professionalise safety at events, to accelerate the joint results, and to achieve more results with less consultation. Which can be a challenge.
From an early age I have been involved in event safety and I now have more than 25 years of practical experience at various events. As a safety coordinator for an event of 55,000 people, I had 180 volunteers and 4 coordinators in a weekend. Due to growth, it was a challenge to organise that every year without any budget.
In addition, in three months I have reached an agreement on the events framework on behalf of the police and district college for six municipalities and the three emergency services in the Dune and Bulb region. The result was a more tactical deployment of the police, less police capacity, and one permit for the Flower Parade instead of five. I was also commissioned by the police to bring the risks to the attention of the mayor of Tiel regarding running two event at the same time, Appelpop and Fruitcorso.
In 10 months’ lead time, a change has taken place and an investigation has finally been carried out at the event site into the prospective dangers. The two events are no longer organised at the same time, which was previously unthinkable. It has resulted in increased security, improved coordination and information, less police capacity, and more tactical deployment.
To make working on and around the event site easier and more effective, I use my experiences and training in project management and change management (from my banking and insurance career) to join forces and strengthen the event safety network.
What are the challenges associated with event safety management?
At most of the events that are held in the Netherlands annually ‘nothing really happens’. So why go through all the hassle my business presents to the organisers? This is often an argument of many people and why politicians often don’t want to listen to the warnings of event safety officers.
Event Safety Academy helps the event safety officers to be heard on the level of decision makers and who is responsible when –avoidable things go wrong. To identify the risks and prepare properly for the event, enough time is needed. Often safety plans are delivered late, the legislation process takes a lot of time and the political decision making is slow. There is no time left for the most important part, which is the operational planning. We help to come to the forefront of this process to create enough time for preparation and unexpected issues.
City centres and national events, like our well-known Kings day in Holland (our Kings’ national birthday party) are the most difficult situations for event safety planning and keeping public order. It is possible to look at the city as one big identity where we can see the risks immediately, and develop measures to prevent or reduce risks.
Who are your clients and what are the benefits of working with you?
Event Safety Academy helps local governments and emergency agencies to professionalise the event safety with training, risk assessments, coaching-on-the-job and change management programs. We accelerate the decision making process, and we guarantee less meetings with more results.
The mayor of a city where the event will be held gives his authorisation and validation to organisers to proceed with their events,if something goes wrong, he will be the one who needs to deal with the press and his decision is the first subject of investigation. The officers of the local government and the emergency agencies need to advise the mayor on these risks, whether it is reasonable to give the licence and how to deal with the remaining risks. A lot of knowledge, experience, stakeholders and political forces are involved in this process.
About Marit Elders
Marit Elders is an Event Safety Project Manager and Change Manager living in Apeldoorn, Netherlands.
She graduated from the University of Derby in 2018 with a diploma in Event Safety Management and founded the Event Safety Academy, Marit also works on various other projects.