Local News

Event planner 'horrified' terror assessments not routinely done in US

Posted May 24

— The bombing of a pop concert in Manchester, England, has focused attention in the U.S. to security blindspots.

PNC Arena in Raleigh, for example, will start using bomb-sniffing dogs to patrol inside and outside the venue before, during and after events.

"We just put our whole team through hostage and active-shooter training," Sally Webb Berry, founder and chief executive of The Special Events Company, said Wednesday.

Webb Berry started her event-planning business in London in the 1980s and moved it to North Carolina 16 years ago. Now, she manages everything from high-profile sporting events to the Dalai Lama's upcoming visit to Raleigh.

But the threat of terror attacks on such events worries her. College campuses are especially hot targets, she said, because of large crowds, sporting events and ideological differences.

"I was and remain horrified in the U.S. by how little thought and preparation is given being proactive in risk management in events," she said.

Throughout Europe, stringent laws require event planners to complete risk assessment documents for every event. In the U.S., police are usually trained to handle a crisis such as a concert bombing, but event planners likely aren't, which Webb Barry said could leave those in charge of major events, as well as those attending them, vulnerable.

Webb Berry travels the world speaking and planning events, but she said she feels a responsibility, now more than ever, to make sure those in her industry are trained to keep people safe.

During a guest lecture at Duke University, she encouraged event planners to get certified in crowd management and CPR and to make risk assessment checklists routine.

"You really can’t stop it, but what you can do is put measures into place so, if that does happen, all of your staff and team are trained enough to know where do we go," she said.

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