Planning for Safety: A Look at Security Measures with the Chicago FBI

This article originally appeared in our Nov/Dec 2017 Issue, in regards to the Las Vegas Shooting.  With the recent school shooting in Parkland, we wanted to feature this article with the Chicago FBI that discusses safety measures for events.


It’s important to talk about all aspects of event planning, even the tough and unexpected things.  On October 1st, 2017, gunfire was opened on a crowd of 22,000 people, during the Route 91 Harvest Country Music Festival in Las Vegas, killing 58 and injuring 546 others and making it the largest mass shooting in modern U.S. History.

Such a senseless act can not be explained. Is it possible there could be any precautions to avoid a tragedy like this in the future?  I spoke to Chicago FBI Agent Chris Serdinak for some insight about what planner should think about regarding safety for large and public events.

Is the FBI Usually Involved with Public Events?

Despite what you see on TV, we work very closely and very well with the local police.  We don’t just come in and take over.  They are strong partners for us, and as a planner, the local police should be your first point of contact.  The FBI would only get involved if there was a concern for National Security or terrorism.

Would There Ever Be an Instance Where It Would Be Appropriate to Reach Out to the FBI Directly?

If you, as a planner, were suspicious about something that you think could be terrorism or a matter of national security, then you could reach out to us directly and we would look into it until we determined that it was resolved.

Is There a “Standard” Safety Procedure That Event Planners Should Be Aware Of?

There is a tiered scale from 1 to 5 that  we use to determine the needed level for security for an event.  We have different criteria that indicates what tier should be associated with an event.  Things like what the size of the event is and how many people will be attending.   What will foot traffic around the event be like?  Will it be well-publicized – how much will the event be covered in the press?  Is the venue a potential target?   For example, a 1 would be something like the Super Bowl or when NATO was in town but something on the lower end would be a 4 of 5 tier.

Is There A Certain Size of Event That Should Be Reported to Local Police?

A Planner should notify the police of any event of 1,000 people or more., even if you don’t have any police as part of the security on-site.  By doing so, if for any reason something should happen, the police will at least be aware of the event and know what they are walking into from a tactical perspective.

What Are Some Common Things You Find Most People Miss?

The most common thing is that people never get a license plate number.  They’ll tell you the make and model of the car, what color it is but the most helpful thing is to jot down the license plate, or snap a photo of it.  Details are important.  Whatever you can get can be very helpful – phone numbers, times, dates, images, even video.  If you can get this information without putting yourself in harm’s way do so.  First and foremost you need to be safe.  Don’t endanger yourself or others, but trust your gut.   If something doesn’t feel right, report it.  Another common thing is that people often do not report suspicious activity soon enough.  They hesitate, thinking that they are overreacting when in fact they’re not.

The truth is the public are our partners, too.  If no one tells us, we can’t engage.  When we do get to a scene, we are talking to victims because they were there and they know what happened, meaning witnesses are important in the process too.


Support Victims from the Las Vegas Shooting Here

Support Victims from the Parkland Shooting Here

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