Security and emergency risk management at Sydney Opera House

by FM Media
0 comment

How security and emergency management at Sydney Opera House is handled is revealed by Total Facilities 2012 speaker, JENNY MULDOON, head of security, emergency planning and response at the iconic venue.

The head of security wears many hats and, in most organisations, the facilities manager is often tasked with security and safety under their portfolios. Annual fire drills and warden training are often viewed as tedious, and getting acceptance and participation is, at times, difficult. There is also the additional difficulty of trying to convince senior management to spend money on security and business resilience.
A security/facilities manager needs to form relationships across their business, to be committed to the organisation’s priorities and to realise the goals of what other employees are trying to achieve. The security/facilities manager then needs to sell this to their team, including those who may have traditional views about how to provide a secure environment.
It is vital that security remains relevant to the business. Embedding a strong security culture in the planning phase of projects ultimately provides a more secure environment and potential cost savings. Identifying cost-effective ways to deliver security solutions is the most efficient way to get the organisation’s senior management to notice your contribution to the business.
A great example of these relationships and the contribution they bring to a business is demonstrated by the Vehicle and Pedestrian Safety Project (VAPS) at Sydney Opera House. This project was costly (over $190 million over several years) and caused disruption to the business in the short-term, but there are many significant long-term gains for both the patrons and presenters, such as the removal of traffic from the forecourt. From concept planning through to the current delivery phase, the security team was involved in every stage of this major work. The security team examined ways to future proof the structure, identified risks and recommended infrastructure and equipment that would mitigate these security risks.

The delivery of security, business continuity, and fire and safety functions within the Sydney Opera House is combined to form a 50-person team called the Emergency Planning and Response Group (EPRG). The group is led by a department head who reports to the director of building development and maintenance (BDM). The department head also has a reporting line to the chief executive officer on security and emergency management issues.
Having support of senior management is critical in achieving the organisation’s security strategy. In the case of the Sydney Opera House, being a world-class heritage-listed icon clearly helps the organisation’s cause with funding and resources. The role and organisation have a very strong focus on networking with external law enforcement agencies, including the police local area command, the New South Wales Counter Terrorism Command and Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO). The head’s role extends to ensuring that security planning and operations are in line with the broader community security strategies.

As people who work in the facilities space are often hands-on and practical people, we build our resilience to emergencies through scenario-based exercises. Sydney Opera House’s senior managers, EPRG and facilities team recently conducted a real-time exercise to test our ability to recover from a fire in one of our larger theatres. The facilities team exceeded the expectation of the broader business.
They examined plans to understand what services passed through the area affected and communicated this to the broader business. This enabled others in the exercise to understand the ‘knock-on’ affect with other performances. An outcome of the exercise was to establish both on- and off-site emergency cabinets. These cabinets include CAD drawings, recovery plans and contact information for a range of disciplines, including:

  • hydraulics
  • HVAC systems
  • plant rooms
  • switch boards, and
  • base building plans.

When it came to planning recovery, the facility team identified how clear-up crews would impact the rest of the site and communicated how long repairs would take. These are critical pieces of information that the broader business needs to make decisions on, including public and staff messaging, and rescheduling or cancelling other performances.
In regards to leading the situation, our BDM director took a more strategic view and delegated people with tasks to assess and report back with information. These tasks included:

  • checking structural stability
  • summarising the damage caused, incorporating gas, electricity, water and ventilation
  • reaccommodating staff and hirers
  • cleaning up
  • building hoarding, and
  • photographing and documenting the damage for insurance purposes.

The main lesson the organisation learned from the exercise is how important scenario testing really is. There is now an increased focus on testing scenarios, rather than just completing desktop exercises.
As people who work in facilities are often very factual people, it is essential you develop a scenario with very clear assumptions about the extent of any damage. It is also beneficial to provide some examples about outcomes, so that participants know what’s expected. To help keep momentum, we also give one person a preliminary briefing, so that ideas can evolve as far as possible. Examples of other scenarios could be:

  • outbreak of Legionella in the air-conditioning
  • after-hours maintenance issue regarding a burst pipe, and
  • communicating and escalating the loss of an essential service.

There are a number of risks associated with the Sydney Opera House and people often form the view that terrorism is the highest risk. From a day-to-day perspective, this is not the case. A business disruption from a power failure or similar is the key risk that the EPRG manages. In the case of the Sydney Opera House, this can have a major impact financially with loss of venue, loss of revenue from tickets, tours, food and beverages and, most importantly, loss of reputation and brand damage.

Apart from delivering up-to-date emergency preparedness, life safety awareness and training across all areas of the organisation, other key security strategies for the Sydney Opera House include:

  • providing stimulus to security staff roles and responsibilities, as there is a potential for complacency and reduced security commitment if no incidents occur for a prolonged period
  • ensuring security staff remain vigilant as, with increased visitor numbers through a number of tourism initiatives, there is potential for the introduction of crime, both against persons and Sydney Opera House property
  • managing public perceptions of threat and tolerance for increased security measures
  • managing the protective security of our most valuable asset, our ‘sails’, and having a timely response to a sails breach by activists or protestors, and
  • managing the day-to-day threat of terrorism.

Situational and social intervention is the key to a sustainable reduction in the threat of terrorism. There is an argument that many security managers within organisations hive off terrorism as a separate topic to be addressed by police or other authorities, rather than dealing with it as a part of what they do already to prevent crime and minimise harm. The focus for Sydney Opera House, in consultation with the New South Wales Police Terrorist Command, is the five ‘I’s:

  1. intelligence: identifying the crime/terrorist problem, its causes and the consequences
  2. intervention: interrupting, weakening or diverting one or more of the causes and mitigating the consequences
  3. implementation: a task-oriented perspective on making things happen on the ground
  4. involvement: a people- and organisation-oriented perspective on getting people to join in partnerships and to get mobilised, and developing a supportive climate for security, and
  5. impact: impact and process evaluation, and improvement.

Security and facilities are important aspects to all business; the key is to remain relevant.

Jenny Muldoon is the head of security, emergency planning and response at Sydney Opera House. In her current role, Muldoon has implemented a number of change management processes within the security and fire teams and works in close consultation with the New South Wales Police Counter Terrorism Command to implement protective security strategies for the future of the Sydney Opera House. She also manages the security overlay for large-scale events at Sydney Opera House and her role includes the development and rollout of business resilience plans for Sydney Opera House.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More