(U//FOUO) DHS Protective Measures Guide for the U.S. Outdoor Venues Industry

The following DHS guide was originally released in April by Parks and Recreation magazine.

Homeland Security Protective Measures Guide for the U.S. Outdoor Venues Industry

  • 70 pages
  • For Official Use Only
  • June 2011
  • 8.95 MB


Preventing terrorism, enhancing security, and ensuring resilience from disasters are core missions of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Accomplishing these missions necessitates building and fostering a collaborative environment in which the private sector and Federal, State, local, tribal, and territorial governments can better protect critical infrastructure. The Commercial Facilities (CF) Sector is one of 18 critical infrastructure sectors designated by the Department. Within the CF Sector, the Outdoor Venues Subsector represents entities that provide the public with places to meet and gather in outdoor spaces for the purposes of entertainment, education, and recreation. The industry is designated as critical infrastructure because it is essential to the Nation’s economic vitality and way of life. It is critical to the Department’s vision of ensuring a homeland that is safe, secure, and resilient against terrorism and other hazards.

Within DHS, this overarching responsibility for critical infrastructure protection is delegated to the National Protection and Programs Directorate’s (NPPD) Office of Infrastructure Protection (IP), specifically the Sector-Specific Agency Executive Management Office (SSA EMO) CF Branch for commercial facilities. Serving as the Sector-Specific Agency (SSA) for the CF Sector, the CF Branch works with its partners to address and highlight low-cost preparedness and risk management options in the products and tools it makes available to the private sector. For example, the CF SSA has been working to produce a suite of protective measures guides that provide an overview of best practices and protective measures designed to assist owners and operators in planning and managing security at their facilities or events. The Protective Measures Guide for the U.S. Outdoor Venues Industry is one of these guides and reflects the special considerations and challenges posed by the Outdoor Venues Subsector.

1.1.2 Outdoor Gatherings

Outdoor gatherings can occur on downtown city streets, regional parks, and other outdoor venues. They include celebrations, concerts, demonstrations, fairs, festivals, flea markets, parades, protests, and rallies. They can be local, regional, or national events.

At some large outdoor public gatherings, such as rallies or concerts, individuals are typically concentrated in a particular location. At parades or demonstrations, for instance, people line roadways, march down streets, or ride in a vehicle down a parade route. At fairs and festivals, people are constantly moving from one location to another within a particular site. In many of these cases, there may be no protected perimeter, unless it is a ticketed event and has strict access control measures. In many cases, large outdoor public gatherings involve temporary structures, such as tents and booths with exhibits displaying everything from antique collectibles to military equipment to livestock. Unlike events at fixed facilities, large outdoor public gatherings may not rely on a permanent allocation of dedicated security resources. Therefore, almost all aspects of security must be planned and formulated for each individual gathering. In addition, event organizers and supporters may be unpaid volunteers rather than regular, part-time, or contracted employees.

Any organization or group can be involved in arranging a large outdoor public gathering. For example, large corporations sponsor free concerts; political parties arrange rallies; civic organizations stage parades; advocacy groups hold demonstrations; commercial enterprises organize fairs and festivals; and people spontaneously congregate to celebrate events. In many cases, government agencies also participate in securing these types of gatherings. Finally, many outdoor gatherings require special permits and may place a strain on limited community resources. Each community’s laws, ordinances, and permitting process are different.

1.2 Key Vulnerabilities

Vulnerabilities will differ by specific characteristics and circumstances of the outdoor venue. Among the key vulnerabilities of the outdoor venues industry are the following:

Open access: Many outdoor public gatherings have no access controls. Although many events have a significant security presence, the ability to monitor the crowd, including what items can be carried into the venue, is limited. Some outdoor gatherings may have gated areas (e.g., entertainment stage, parade viewing stand) where participants may be screened and additional security measures may be in place, but the ability to provide substantial control over participants in an outdoor gathering may not be possible.

Openness to the general public is an important element for successful business operation at parks and fairgrounds. Although parks typically have gates and other access control measures, venue management personnel are interested in minimizing the time guests have to wait in lines to enter the park. In addition, screening and searches may detract from the recreational experience and positive customer perception, thus making the park more vulnerable to prohibited and illegal items being brought onto the premises.

Large congregations of people: Outdoor gatherings have large congregations of people, often over a wide area. Parks and fairgrounds have many places where large crowds gather (e.g., waiting for admittance to rides, ticket lines), which can provide an opportunity for adversaries to inflict a large number of casualties.

Multiple locations to place explosives or hazardous agents: Large outdoor public gatherings are congested, often noisy, and frequently disorganized. A determined adversary can take advantage of this environment to hide a package containing dangerous materials or discharge a weapon or explosive. Parks and fairgrounds are complex facilities with many trash containers, restrooms, shops, theaters, etc., that offer locations where explosives or hazardous agents could be placed unobtrusively and may be difficult to find quickly.

Operating with a staff of temporary employees and volunteers: The use of part-time or temporary employees, as well as the large number of volunteers at many outdoor gatherings, may limit the ability of event sponsors to conduct background screening for all staff. In addition, seasonal staff and high staff turnover provide challenges in providing training on security measures.

Evacuation difficulties: Rapid evacuation of park patrons in the event of an incident can be difficult due to restricted entry/exit points over a large area, the presence of large numbers of children, and difficulty in communicating evacuation instructions over the expanse of the park. There are few places to take shelter when hazardous weather, including lightning, requires that patrons to evacuate or take shelter. Patrons may not be able to clearly hear instructions over a public address system in an outdoor setting over a noisy crowd. In the case of open fairs and festivals, a public address system may not be present.

Access to peripheral areas: There are limited controls on vehicles traveling into and through areas contiguous to large public gatherings. For parades, vehicles are sometimes allowed to cross the parade route during breaks.

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