With the summer festival season just around the corner, it’s time to think about how much time we can take off from our jobs to plan a weekend to Bonnaroo, Wakarusa, Outside Lands, Camp Bisco, Gathering of the Vibes, Lollapalooza, Pitchfork or any other of the hundreds of festivals that pop up across the U.S. But gather thousands of concert goers into one place and things are almost as bound to go wrong as they are to go right. Over the past 15 years, Green Mtn. Concert Services (GMCS), an established leader in Crowd Management and Security have been sought after for concerts and sporting events throughout the Northeast since 1995. From the Grateful Dead in Highgate, Gathering of the Vibes, Phish festivals, and Burlington Discover Jazz Festival, the folks at GMCS have not only spearheaded the safety of the events but also the planning of it. Glide recently caught up with GMCS President and CEO Kevin Cheney to get a bit more insight to what goes on in the world of security and event services.
I’m sure a lot of people would be curious to know how involved is GMCS in the planning of large scale evens like the Grateful Dead at High Gate or Phish at Coventry?
As our reputation has grown and my relationship with promoters has developed we’ve been more and more involved in planning events. For some events we get involved as early as helping to choose a site. We give promoters a certain perspective that they don’t have when doing a site walk which I think has been helpful. I’d say that at this point the larger the event the earlier we get involved in the planning.
What events have posed the biggest challenges for GMCS? What types of venue scenarios typically create headaches and extra stress?
Any event that is weather dependent is a challenge. Venues that require a large amount of infrastructure construction, such as road work, is particularly challenging. As far as events that create extra stress? Any event that isn’t selling well is stressful. We want events to sell well and want promoters to do well. It’s in our best interest for them to succeed.
What venues or types of concerts are typically the most hassle free?
The short answer is, “No event is hassle free and every event is hassle free. We here at GMCS love them all!”
Each event comes with its own set of challenges.
The age of the attendee plays a factor and the older the crowd the more hassle free it is typically. Also the type of concert plays a factor with “Jazzfest” type events being easier. In addition, we’ve developed a good rapport with many bands, venues, and events over the years and know and understand the fans and attendees. These are typically less of a hassle because we know what to expect and also the attendees know who we are and trust us as well. They understand that our job is to help ensure them a good time not try and stop it.
When there are 50,000 plus people at an event – there is tremendous concern that something can go wrong – how do you best go about securing an event with that many people where any one person can be a “mad man?”
Prior planning and good cooperation with public safety and police is essential.
How do you go about avoiding the dreaded stampede?
The best way to avoid them is training for the staff and communication with venue managers, promoters, and public safety officials who have been through it. I can’t express enough the importance of advance planning and open communication.
Besides firearms and explosives, what are the other top concerns when securing an event?
People who are inebriated and have lost their reasoning ability can be of real concern. They become “weapons” in a sense. Structural issues such as wet stairs or overhangs can be a real worry depending on the upkeep of a venue.
We’re concerned with the well-being of the guest so anything that jeopardizes their safety is a concern for us.
Does the Homeland Security Advisory System have any effect on your staffing levels and event security strategy?
Definitely. What is the risk assessment of the event? You get that from the Department of Homeland Security. There are different risks for different types of events so it can depend on what’s being secured. For example there were different risks when we helped secret service with President Clinton than there were when we provided security for Justice Scalia.
GMCS handles all types of event needs – can you talk about those other services you offer?
We offer a variety of services that fall within five main revenue streams. In addition to crowd management and event security we also do corporate and commercial security. So our security division is by far the focus of GMCS. However, we have a traffic control division and send flagger crews to make sure work zones are safe. We recently developed our Event Services division and now offer clients services in all areas of event planning; from event management to event marketing to staffing to talent buying. In addition, we were contracted by the city of Providence, RI to offer our HOST training. HOST stands for Hospitality Operations Safety Techniques and focuses on risk assessment and risk reduction at night clubs. We were recently awarded $13,000 from a state grant to develop our training program in all areas of safety which we will offer to the public. So we have a large training division. Finally we have an accounting company called Catamount Accounting. That pretty much speaks for itself.
For those looking to work an event as a member of security – what qualifications do they need to have and how do they apply?
I’d like to hope that a person interested in security would have good communication skills, the ability to adapt and process situations, and someone with a level head. However, if you have a pulse and are 18 years or older go to our web site at http://www.gmcsvt.com/ or call us at 802.662.1210. We’re always hiring.
Say its noon time about 6 hours before the doors open for an event – what are the men and or women from GMCS doing in preparation?
(Laughing) “Asleep or at their other job!” It depends on the event. Our senior supervisors are communicating with key staff, the promoter, venue manager, public safety officials etc. Then relaying information to shift supervisors who in turn relay information to the staff. Most of the staff are checking deployment posts and gathering their shift supplies. There is quite a bit of advance work that we do for each event.
Is there any type of fan profiling done for certain shows – how do you prepare for a say a Bonnie Raitt show verse a Phish show?
Definitely. It usually isn’t a secret that a band has fans that may be into certain recreational drugs vs another bands’ fans. That information is important for us to have so we can prepare to make things safe for the event. For example with some bands we need to know where water is readily available. After years of experience you get to know the profile of the “bad guy” so we may watch certain people more. But until an attendee does something wrong everyone is a welcome ticket holder.
What are your thoughts on drug confiscation and paraphernalia?
We can’t confiscate drugs or paraphernalia. Only law enforcement can confiscate. We can use amnesty boxes in conjunction with law enforcement. I want the event safe, period. That’s all I’m concerned about.
To learn more about GMCS and their services, please visit their website.