We have all attended a festival, concert, sporting event or some other type of mass gathering, but have you ever thought about all the work that goes into that event before the lights come on and your favorite team takes to the field or before your favorite artists or entertainers takes the stage. Well Dan Barry, President and Owner of the PEI-based event security company Toursec has, in fact built his business on doing just that. As he says it, Toursec works in one industry – Entertainment, and if you are going to an event or hosting one, you want Dan, the ultimate “Professional Worry Wart” and his trained and professional team behind the scenes and in the crowd making your event memorable for all the right reasons.
Saying that Dan Barry is a successful Atlantic Canadian entrepreneur just doesn’t seem to do him justice – it’s too mundane. He holds a degree in Emergency Management. He trained at the DHS FEMA Emergency Management Institute in Maryland and attended Manchester Metropolitan University in the UK. He’s an expert in both Mass Gathering Life Safety and Use of Force. He lives live events. 365 days a year.
Training and experience go a long way as Dan knows the ins and outs of any event security scenario you can imagine, indoors or outdoors. Toursec has worked alongside security details for presidents, prime ministers, royalty and celebrities. They’ve also made a name for themselves in Entertainment Security in both film and television: Toursec provided total security for Academy Award Winner Daniel Day Lewis’ film The Ballad of Jack and Rose and for Live with Regis and Kelly when they came to shoot in PEI in 2005 and 2010 respectively. Toursec has also provided total security for the Cavendish Beach Music Festival for the past eleven years and will be providing total security for the upcoming Luke Bryan concert that will see a major concert at Moncton’s Magnetic Hill Event Grounds for the first time since 2015. As exciting as it all seems, Dan would be the first one to tell you that it’s not a career of glitz and glam. “You’re doing things that people at an event don’t even know happens; it’s behind the scenes of behind the scenes, really.”
Now don’t let Dan’s reputation as the ultimate “Professional Worry Wart” fool you. He shared a memory or two with us – including one about the star of the “show about nothing” – that really proves that this industry-leading expert in Safe Venue Design and self-described “chronic teacher” can sometimes find time to embrace the lighter side of the invaluable service that he and his team provides.
With over 27 years in the event security industry, Dan has seen it all. He can recall a time when it wasn’t uncommon to get a phone call from your event planner just hours before a major indoor event only to be handed a makeshift map on a napkin of all the exits and washrooms on arrival. He said he remembers when it was a world of “bouncers and big guys.” Well it is not that way now, well at least not for the Toursec Team anyway.
Dan is always working, even when he finds time to attend events in his spare time, not that he has a lot of that. “It’s getting further away from that ‘Here’s your shirt, now go work’ industry of days gone by, but I still see some major faux pas when I go to events as a spectator,” he explained. “There is still a belief among some of the event planners out there that they only need to do the bare minimum. It’s because there is a temp agency mentality around most big events. Event planners hire as many event security companies as they need to fill what are essentially moats throughout the event space. It’s more or less a bunch of security guards looking for beer being passed across barriers and needless to say there’s minimal skill there. Don’t get me wrong, if the event runs smoothly and they’ve prevented outside beer from being passed through a fence, or what have you, that’s great – especially if the client is happy. But given today’s temperament, do those guards know how to respond to the potential dangers of crowds? So many live events go with the lowest bidder for security – which is a mentality that actually kept us from joining the industry sooner than we did – and that means in some cases a company rents its shirts to the kids they hire who have no training and no means of communication. That’s just not acceptable.”
It’s a hard-learned lesson that event security considerations can no longer be merely a cost centre, Dan explained. “When something bad happens at an event now, it becomes the event. In the old days you had to have security because you need to screen people at the gate – you don’t want them bringing alcohol in and impacting your alcohol sales. And at most events you’re going to have people who have a few too many beers and you need to escort them out. Maybe you need to keep a mosh pit in-check or escort an act to their tour bus. Those were basically the things that made security a necessity at an event say 20 years ago. You just needed to be a presence. We’re now more of an information piece than we’ve ever been. People at an event now expect security to know the event site in and out. That’s because as an industry, we’ve mostly moved beyond the arms folded, cold stare image of the past. We’re approachable and knowledgeable. People expect you to be coordinated with the police, to have emergency plans in place, they expect you to get that they’ve just spent maybe a hundred dollars or more on a ticket and that they just want to enjoy the show free of worry – and we do everything we can to make that happen.”
Toursec delivers that peace of mind to event promoters and they have never lost a client to a competitor because, he explained, he has every reason to want to do things right. “For starters, I don’t want to be sued,” he laughed. “But unethical practices and shoddy training do seriously sink a lot of companies in this industry. You can’t hire people who have a reputation for using force when it’s not called for. Like I said, that kind of thing becomes the event. You need to know where you stand and what you’re permitted to do. I also own a mainstream security company that has over 10,000 arrests under its belt, so that’s really informed how I’ve trained my Toursec teams.”
Dan trains Toursec recruits in the principals of the Incident Command System, a collective of police, fire, EMS, and other response and regulatory agencies. “ICS is an incident management system. We use this system at our events, and I train for it with the best.
Toursec became the first private security company (several years ago) to carry Narcan. They have four provincially certified trainers on staff and during events, and usually have over 50 kits in the field for events. Although Toursec teams are first aid qualified, they take direction from their own dispatcher who is a paramedic. Cases are then handed off to the site paramedic teams.
“It doesn’t matter if an event is run perfectly, there’s always a small magnitude of chaos in any large crowd situation. The key is to never stand back and let things unfold. We stay engaged. We don’t just monitor situations that seem like they may escalate; we walk through the crowd, in pairs, and engage groups of friendly people in a friendly manner, ask them how their day or night is going and how they’re liking the show – it lets the general crowd know we’re there and we’re approachable.”
On top of that, Toursec comes well-equipped on the tech side of things. Dan has invested in a Police Specification Command Post with three dispatch consoles in constant contact with guards, police, fire and EHS to make sure all threats both inside and outside an event are contained before they become an issue for those attended or performing.
Thinking of trying to get into an event with a fake id, well if it is a Toursec event, I wouldn’t take the chance, as Toursec’s ID screening teams are all provincially trained, certified for work in a licensed venue and have access to technology to uncover counterfeits. Every year they find hundreds, with many being charged with their use.
“This is great for the Quick Response team – a QR team – and if there’s an incident, they go in and deal with it. At some of the larger festivals we do, we utilize a CCTV system and at others a spotting system. If there’s a fight called, we can be there in seconds. These guys are trained and certified in Defensive Tactics, which is a program by the Human Factors Research Group – the same course a police academy cadet walks out with. It’s absolutely police training. The reason is that what comes with that is what’s called a Forced Continuum or Use of Force and Control Continuum. It means you are certified to use force that is tactically, medically, and legally sound. That’s the training my QR team gets. Keep in mind, the knob doesn’t go up to ten like it does in policing – it’s still private security – and my guys are specifically trained to recognize this, but it’s still critical to have in order to quickly defuse escalating situations in a large crowd. It’s still about presence, but it’s done right now.”
Dan would like to see industry standards change. Dan explained that far too often event planners just look at how many shows a given company has worked, you can work a lot of events, but what are their real qualifications. With today’s social media and it only takes one small incident to go viral and that becomes the event, do you want to trust that to just anyone, I don’t think so, there is a lot more than just money on the line when you are doing events.
“I’ve got a mainstream company called APPS and we provide security for everything from retail to industrial warehouse locations. I also operate RMG, which is a little more niche-based, and there we specialize in security for the heavy industrial and healthcare sectors. Across my companies, there are just under 80 training courses available to employees who want to move up to different positions – and that’s in addition to mandatory training, like the Defensive Tactics (DT) course my Quick Response (QR) guys take.”
While Dan sees the training, he provides to his Toursec employees as a retention tool, he’s also happy every time one of his employees embarks on a career in law enforcement. “The better trained your employees are, the more comfortable and confident they are doing their job and that translates into people who are happy to come to work.” Barry takes pride in his team and wants to help them in their careers. Many of Toursec’s employees have gone on to successful careers in law enforcement – and Dan gets personally involved with their application processes as he says, “It’s an honour.”
But it’s not all contingency planning and risk management. Dan explained that every now and then, once everything is in place and it’s almost show time, a memory to last a lifetime can be made unexpectedly.
“One of the coolest experiences I’ve had was a few years ago in PEI at Credit Union Place when Jerry Seinfeld came to town. We provided security and his manager was talking with a group of us in the back before the performance and he [Jerry Seinfeld] all of a sudden came and joined the discussion. The best part of it all was learning that he is him, if you get me,” Dan laughed. “It felt like I was in an episode of Seinfeld. His whole demeanour is just like his character – he should have never been paid that much to star in that show! There was no pretense; he engaged everybody.”
For Dan and the Toursec team, the only problem is the one you’re not prepared for. “Ninety-nine percent of people are great to deal with – they’re there to have a great time and, quite frankly, they’re one of our biggest assets.”
Spotlight on Business Magazine has covered and attended events that Dan and his Toursec team have been working behind the scenes, yes we encourage vigilance in everybody but when we are at an event it is comforting to know that a trained profession with a keen eye is in control of the situation so we and those attending can sit back and relax or stand up and cheer and know that you are in good hands with Toursec.
Visit Toursec.com for more information on how Dan and his Toursec Team can make your next event memorable for all the reasons.
by David MacDonald