EXCLUSIVE: Major event? Clear communication via IP speakers is key

Soundwave from IP speaker

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Dan Rothrock, President, Zenitel Americas reveals why audio via IP speakers are a vital part of the security ecosystem for public events.

Event security

Beyoncé and Bruce Springsteen performances in Europe. Taylor Swift concerts throughout the US. Country legends like Willie Nelson and Shania Twain are also selling out shows.

2023 has seen a typical summer packed with music events and concerts.

It doesn’t stop there. The summer has also been filled with hundreds of thousands of indoor and outdoor gatherings – theater, sporting events, food festivals, parades and more.

Everywhere, people are gathering in large events and public spaces.

Most of these events occur without incident — as they should. Behind the scenes are security and safety plans that aim to provide the safest possible environment for everyone who is at or near the event.

Those plans are critical, as threats exist daily and they are magnified when large numbers of people congregate in open spaces.

What could go wrong? Threats are not limited to terrorism; attendees may also be threats.

Fights, thefts, crowd surges and medical emergencies are persistent problems for all major events and public spaces, indoors or out.

That places enormous pressure on security and safety teams.

While the threat of a security or safety incident or attack can never be eliminated outright, much can be done in terms of mitigation, to include conducting risk assessments, identifying potential threats and generating actionable situational intelligence for a faster response and investigation.

The core of that mitigation strategy for law enforcement and security teams is technology in the form of surveillance cameras, access control, video analytics, metal detectors, 911 call centers, officers on patrol and more.

Employing major security technology can deter people from proceeding with their plans if they know they’re being watched. It also tells attendees that they are safe.

For example, in a survey by the National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security (NCS4) of sports venue Security Directors, respondents noted that the technology they are most using to prevent and mitigate security incidents include CCTV systems, electronic ticketing, explosives detection K9 units, stationary bollards, signage and metal detectors.

Other common security technologies include antivirus software, mobile communications and social media messaging.

What’s missing? It’s the one and only security technology that provides the ability to communicate – clearly – in every situation.

Audio via IP speakers

Imagine a football game with hundreds of thousands of people and a sudden storm forces immediate evacuation.

How will the spectators know when to leave and where to go? Only through audio and voice messages that clearly communicate all instructions.

Audio and voice can convey important messages that a video surveillance camera, or video management systems (VMS), access control solution or any other security technology cannot.

While video surveillance allows security teams to see and access control technology allows or permits access, both technologies are limiting.

They are reactive solutions, which confine a security team’s ability to mitigate an event.

Integrating audio via IP speakers and horns with video surveillance and access controls gives security teams an interactive and proactive solution.

It essentially adds “ears” to a security team’s “eyes”, which are important tools to have in any situation.

In an everyday situation or in an emergency, people will also respond to voice versus physical signage that they may not see.

Audio also has reach. Consider a security team that is remotely (whether that’s a few hundred or thousand feet) monitoring a large-scale event.

Security teams can use video surveillance to see everyone and audio via IP speakers to clearly communicate with them.

They can use IP speakers to provide direction and reassurance and guests and patrons can hear and talk back to them.

For example:

  • In an indoor or outdoor sports venue, paging announcements via IP horn speakers can help staff and visitors get to where they need to be. They can help to control crowds in specific areas. They can also help to manage queues to stay or leave designated areas
  • At an outdoor music concert, IP speakers and horns can be used for individual zones to grouped zones to form larger areas of communication. The event organizer or even the artist could make a pre-show announcement from the stage to address the crowd and ask for their assistance in making the event as safe as possible
  • At a large indoor event, ceiling or cabinet IP speakers can communicate instructions to guests and staff regarding when to evacuate and where to go. The speakers can be mounted to be physically discrete and well-integrated
  • At fence lines, IP long-horn speakers allow staff to trigger warning messages or issue live instructions, if needed. Integrated with a VMS, cameras and speakers can be positioned together and allow staff to intervene while staying at a safe distance
  • In a large convention center, IP horns and speakers can communicate to one zone or the entire area about which exit to use and where to go. If large crowds have gathered in a specific area or if that area reaches capacity, voice messages can be used to help guide people. IP speakers can also be used to deliver up-to-the-minute traffic instructions as people leave the facility

Moreover, most IP speakers and horns are designed for both indoor and outdoor use, with IP66 ratings that offer protection from particulate and moisture ingress.

The interactivity and integration features of IP speakers provide many benefits over traditional public address systems, which include:

  • Talk back functionality – with a microphone in each speaker, operators can directly communicate with individuals near the speaker
  • Ambient listening – opens the mic channel only, giving an operator more situational awareness
  • Automatic volume control – measures the ambient noise and automatically adjusts the product’s volume up or down, within a user-defined range
  • Monitoring, maintenance and control – a built-in tone test gives the product enhanced monitoring and maintenance features to limit system downtime and to allow for more efficient management of maintenance tasks
  • Flexible zoning – ensures that each speaker can be addressed individually or grouped to form larger zones, with multiple assignable groups

Furthermore, IP speakers have their own built-in amplifier that eliminates the need for central or localized amplifiers and reduces cabling.

Major security

In today’s ever-changing and ever-increasing and complicated risk environment for major events and public spaces, the importance of high-quality, clear audio cannot be understated.

Whether it’s a large-scale outdoor concert, food festival, football game, carnival or large trade show in a convention center, people will gather. That has inherent safety and security risks.

Security professionals have likely dedicated time and resources to access control and video surveillance systems to ensure the safety and security of major events and that’s important to a security strategy. Video surveillance is an essential element of a physical security solution.

However, surveillance footage is not interactive, as it only records the event.

Access control is an additional essential component as well, as it can either allow or deny access, but it is limiting too.

What is also needed is a way to clearly send messages, hear messages and clearly communicate.

Only voice and audio solutions via IP speakers allow security teams to effectively communicate instructions pre-event, during the event and post-event.

Security teams need voice and audio technology at their fingertips, to enhance situational awareness, communicate clear instructions, institute a safe exit and overall, allow staff to focus important resources where they can be most beneficial.

It’s time to understand the value of IP speakers and intelligent communications to secure all major events and public spaces.

This article was originally published in the August edition of Security Journal Americas. To read your FREE digital edition, click here.

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