Monitoring large-scale events

August 2012 Surveillance

The Rand Show is one of the many premier shows that take place at the Johannesburg Expo Centre (JEC), Nasrec. Risk and Liability Services, the control room operators, are responsible for monitoring the Rand Show and to ensure the security of all partaking in and visiting the show.

The 2012 Rand Show attracted a crowd of 250 000 visitors and it’s the responsibility of Johannesburg Expo Centre to ensure that all are guaranteed a safe and secure experience at the venue. James Hagedorn, director, risk and liabilities services and his team ensure that the venue is equipped with security systems of an international standard,” says Craig Newman, CEO, JEC.

While the Rand Show is one of the premier events, there are similar concerns over creating a safe business and entertainment environment for other significant events during the year, including the Johannesburg International Motor Show, Automechanika, and the Soweto Marathon. The control room provides an essential CCTV and security function in protecting premises, goods, stands and most importantly, members of the public.

Some of the special challenges for the control room are the wide range of exhibitors and delegates present at such events and exhibitions. For example, commercial stalls, high profile exhibitors and international clients make the Rand Show the premier consumer show that it is. The international theme is a consistent presence in many, if not all of the shows and thus demands a responsibility to ensure that international business and visitors have a positive impression of the show and the country, at the end of their stay.

At the same time, processes such as catering, stand set-up and breakdown, parking, and ensuring socially acceptable behaviour are all areas that are important in ensuring the success of the event. Throw in the strong family positioning of many of the shows and the need for a safe and protected environment where people feel they can enjoy themselves, becomes more vital.

Major challenges

Some of the major challenges of CCTV in such events include:

* Large halls and use of high-speed domes to patrol these extensive areas.

* Getting in close enough to record high quality evidence given the size of halls.

* The high volume of visitors to the show grounds.

* Extensive parking facilities with a high number of vehicles.

* Monitoring extensive access control.

* Monitoring of the back areas that allow service providers to deliver to the visitors as well as the main display areas.

* Ensuring a prompt and effective response facility on the ground with effective viewing and communication.

Risk and Liability have responded well to these challenges, getting evidence quality footage in a number of cases. Operators used on a consistent basis for the shows and have learnt from the various incidents of crime protection they have encountered.

They are used to using high-speed domes to view the extensive halls, and have picked up a number of odd-situations among both the stands, as well as the surroundings and support services. Perhaps a disappointing aspect is that when people have been observed, apprehended and caught with the goods on them, many members of the public have declined to press charges because of having to attend the court process, despite great evidence that could get people convicted.

The apprehension of criminals does, however, send a message that people who attempt theft are being watched. On a positive note and most significant to the event industry, is the use of CCTV has led to major savings for the event organiser on security costs, as CCTV was able to police large scales areas with expensive goods more effectively than with guarding personnel in areas such as display halls, particularly after hours. In this sense, Risk and Liability Services is not only able to provide protection, but add value and cost saving to the entire event management process.

To continue to provide a sufficiently strong set of capabilities in order to deal with the challenges of viewing such well-attended shows, the system and control room infrastructure required major upgrading. The system upgrades took place three years ago and has resulted in the provision of world-class security technology.

Risk and Liability Services not only provide the operators for the system, but also manage the technical installation and maintenance to ensure the smooth running and longevity of the systems. Behind the scenes there is a huge Barco screen. This sets the context for the control room, but the various monitoring consoles in the control room provide the infrastructure for a strong monitoring presence. The system is capable of recording data from the entire Rand Show and maintaining this for 30 days with the storage providing the ability to go back to any camera over the whole period of any event. In addition, each workstation has the ability to record what is being monitored and makes for easy retrieval of video evidence. There is a backbone of optical fibre throughout the site and transmission into and out of JEC has also been addressed with broadband capabilities.

Extended services

The prime surveillance facilities and skilled personnel are only being used for events at JEC. At this stage, Risk and Liability Services are looking at expanding the role of the control room to providing remote monitoring services. The IT backbone facilitates incoming data from clients and the facilities allow constant 24-hour services from a safe and secure environment. The experience of operators in dealing with the various events and conditions has equipped them with a good awareness of conditions and identifying suspects and crime.

Asked about how events at JEC would impact on remote monitoring, Hagedorn points out that “the control room facilities are more than enough to handle demands, and there is a pool of experienced operators who can be involved. Remote monitoring would continue with even more added value during the quieter periods at the given resources that can be provided. Risk and Liabilities Services’ promise of technical expertise and of world-class technical service is not limited to Johannesburg Expo Centre, but the success of the infrastructure means that operators now have the capability of operating offsite as well.





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