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Special event planners invest more in security

| Thursday, May 29, 2014, 11:21 p.m.

Community events usually are safe places where families and friends gather, but some highly publicized fatal attacks at outings are spurring event planners to put more focus — and money — on private security, experts said.

“These are what we call high consequence but low probability events,” said Dennis Giever, a professor of criminology at Indiana University of Pennsylvania who teaches a class in physical security.

Terrifying incidents such as the Boston Marathon bombings last year and a driver plowing into a crowd at the South by Southwest concert in Austin in March have generated renewed interest in security service firms, said Nick Petrillo, an analyst at IBISWorld Inc., a Santa Monica, Calif.-based market research company.

Special events business at Forest Hills-based Peak Security Inc., which will provide after-hours guard service for the Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival that starts next week, has grown 30 percent in the last two years, spokesman Raymond Cervenak said.

“We've invested a lot of money in training over the last few years,” said Cervenak, who said some of the guards are off-duty police officers or civilians who are licensed to carry firearms.

Over the next five years, the security services industry is expected “to grow 4 percent annually on average to $30.5 billion in total revenue generated through its guard, patrol and secured transportation services, and much of this growth will directly stem from a growing customer class consisting of promoters and committees in charge of organizing large public events,” Petrillo said.

Popular community events historically had security provided by local police departments, but many event organizers have had to supplement those services as municipal budgets shrink and/or they compete with more events for coverage, said Steven Wood Schmader, CEO of the International Festivals and Events Association in Boise, Idaho.

The level of security that the Pittsburgh public safety department provides for the EQT Pittsburgh Three Rivers Regatta, a three-day festival that includes a July 4 fireworks display at Point State Park, Downtown, has remained consistent, said Michael Huss, the city's director of public safety and emergency management.

Still, regatta manager ISM/USA of McCandless supplements the security the city provides with contracted services from Peak, said Michael Dongilli, the firm's senior vice president.

The cost of security for staffing and safety measures for the regatta has increased 15 percent in the past few years, though he declined to specify the actual cost. Security expenses are the largest cost for the regatta, he said.

“Boston did put a heightened alert on things last year, simply because you never know. It's just the nature of events these days,” he said.

Another issue is liability, one expert said.

“There is greater demand for security across the board, and I think it's partly driven by ... greater risk out there and also there's increased liability. And the liability factor, that's a pretty major factor,” said Steve Amity, executive director/general counsel of the National Association of Security Companies in Washington.

Several firms' executives said their services extend to coordinating security plans with local police and fire departments, emergency medical services and Homeland Security offices, and the use of technology is crucial.

Global revenue for security equipment and services, excluding guards, totaled $110 billion in 2012, but it is projected to increase to $170 billion by 2017, according to IHS Global Insight, based in Englewood, Colo.

The growing demand for services can lead to challenges in filling jobs, officials said.

Conshohocken-based Allied­Barton Security Services, which has an office on the North Shore, has an ongoing recruiting effort to place former military personnel in private security jobs, said Bob Chartier, vice president of key accounts.

“Our company alone recruited 5,000 former military personnel for security positions in 2013. They are an excellent fit in many of the environments,” he said. Nationwide, the company employs more than 60,000 private security professionals, which is about a 20 percent increase over the last five years, he said.

Tory N. Parrish is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5662 or

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