A consistent event security management approach through the years

Marcel van Paeschen
Marcel Van Paeschen


A consistent event security management approach, through an era of change in the Netherlands

I’m currently in my thirteenth year as security manager and a lot has changed over that time in event security management. Not only do annual events grow and evolve on an operational level, but so too do the external threats and associated risks.

Part of responding to an event’s growing profile includes updating the security plans every year to ensure that the security measures in place are informed by a current threat and risks assessment and that they can appropriately mitigate against the numerous threats that exist, including opportunistic criminals, terrorism and even reputation damage.

To put this into context, twenty years ago, The European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF) was looking for a trusted and internationally recognized company to provide overall security management on behalf of the organization and act as a security and risk adviser to the board in preparation for and during the annual fair in Maastricht, Netherlands. We at Control Risks have been fortunate to partner alongside them in this task.

TEFAF is widely regarded as the world’s pre-eminent organization of fine art, antiques and design. Annually TEFAF holds its flagship art fair, attracting visitors from all over the world, in the city of Maastricht in the Netherlands. Artefacts with a multi billion-dollar total value are exhibited and on sale there for a period of ten days.

In my role as security manager for the event, I begin preparations for TEFAF four months prior to the actual event. I always start by conducting security assessments and vulnerability reviews, taking into consideration the threat environment. I then review the mitigation measures to protect people, property, information and reputation. This includes providing advice on travel security, policies, physical security and the security of personnel, to ensure that all factors are accounted for and running smoothly during the fair.

On a deeper level, I also provide subject matter expertise and advise the exhibitors on physical security measures around the setup of their own stands. Additionally, we support TEFAF on an ongoing basis with live and current intelligence. We consult the organization during the year with regards to the latest security developments and have a mandate to respond to all security-related issues.

During the three-week period of the most recent fair in March (which includes the final set-up of the fair and the fair itself), we deployed a team of eight security consultants on a 24/7 basis, consisting of myself as security manager, a second-in-command and six security coordinators in order to manage the operational process.

There is a high degree of sensitivity in terms of potential reputational risk for TEFAF and their stakeholders in case of an incident. The profile of the event and its importance in terms of international media coverage for the art world, as well as the exposure of the Netherlands and Maastricht as host country and city, means a successful event is paramount. Against the background of an event location with multiple security challenges, our subject matter expertise and skills, professionalism and thorough incident preparedness are always of the utmost importance in servicing this demanding project.

Control Risks has continued to evolve as a professional risk consultancy, not only in our ongoing work with TEFAF, but also with many other clients. We have expanded our expertise into all kinds of risk mitigation. However, security is at the core of our DNA and will always be. This allows us to support our clients with whatever security need they may face, big or small. Personally, this longstanding and challenging project has allowed me to acquire an in-depth understanding of how to support events of this nature, exposure and size, and I’ve gained valuable knowledge that informs my decision-making with many other clients.

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