Security & Legal Compliance Issues
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Security and Legal Compliance is a very controversial issue but well worth a few minutes to learn about.
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- It's no joke and it's no scare tactic
"Why do we do it and what does it achieve?"
Elliot Kleiner, C.E.O. of Prom Night Events explains…..
Almost every week now we receive calls and e-mails from people asking about our security procedures. Some are School Formal attendees, some are ordinary citizens but most are concerned parents asking the question "Why is it necessary?"
Let me start by saying that this is nothing new. Alcohol ingestion analysis, identification of symptoms associated with illicit drugs and searches for contraband, in one form or another, have all been a part of standard security procedures at High School Formals, and most nightclubs & bars for decades. The fact that we now use electronic devices and sophisticated systems to assist with that process seems to be what’s attracted all the attention. What it does is simply speed up the process and make it less obtrusive.
This page will serve to dispel myths about what we do, how and why we do it. Most of all - it will demonstrate why a Prom Night Events Formal is the safest place to accommodate teens while they enjoy their big night.
According to the various state laws, it is generally accepted that there be 1 security operative for each 100 guests attending a Minor's function - like a formal. We believe this is far too simplistic a formula as there exist many security issues that could easily facilitate problems if insufficient security staffing is applied. This is why our policy is that on every event, we begin by assessing the layout and features of each individual venue, and the individual circumstances of the school and guests.
For instance - a typical formal at the Four Points by Sheraton Sydney of 200 guests would require 2 guards by (N.S.W.) law. Depending on the circumstances, we would begin with 4 and a supervisor. The same function for 200 guests at the Sheraton on the Park Sydney would require 8 guards because there are more access points in and out of the function space.
State Governments require that all Guards be appropriately licensed under the relevant Security & Protection Industry Acts. We require the same but also require that all Security Personnel also possess current First Aid Certification including Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation AND current Responsible Service of Alcohol accreditation (or equivalent), such as any venue employee would need to have. Further to that we also provide industry-specific training to guards in the areas of Teen Psychology, Crowd Control, Logistics, Emergency Evacuation and Passive Submission.
Our Security Personnel are all hand-picked professionals and are graded and accredited through our own training programme so as to ensure that only the appropriate people conduct certain duties fitting their level of training, experience and skill.
To avoid any situation arising from female guests being addressed by Security, a policy of having at least one female Guard per event has been adopted.
Each venue we hold Formals in must have Public Liability Insurance and conduct all functions in total compliance with Occupational Health & Safety Regulations. Our procedures, covering everything from how to deliver the balloons - through to emergency evacuation in the event of a fire or other issue, is comprehensively documented with safety in mind. These procedures and safety compliance sheets are available for inspection at any time by any concerned party.
In addition, our Security teams also carry a further Public Liability Insurance Policy of $20M.
Further to that again, Prom Night Events also has policies for Personal Injury Cover and Property Damage Cover. All of our own staff are covered by WorkCover with the Government Insurance Office.
Every event we conduct is covered for every conceivable scenario.
Each of the venues we hold Formals in hold a license with particular conditions pertaining to the conduct of functions minors are likely to attend without their parents. This is also nothing new. These regulations and restrictions have been around since well before this year’s formal attendees were born but they're constantly in flux and being reviewed & strengthened annually either by the state government, or by us within our own policies. Until recently, many of those restrictions and conditions had either not been clearly understood by those involved in the industry, or had been largely ignored, and therefore breached. The result has been precisely what the laws were written to avoid. That included such things as under age drinking, violence, damage, illness, and general disorderly conduct.
As with any industry, there are those in the Event Industry who would capitalise on the immaturity of some young people and invite formal guests to attend venues where liquor is freely made available, even though it may not be legal or proper for that to happen. It has been our decision to date that we will endeavour to avoid such venues as we also avoid dealing the kinds of people that would seek to cash-in on the illegal or irresponsible sale of liquor to young people at formals.
I need to make this point very clear. We are not "anti-alcohol". What we are most strongly against is the "illegal" or "irresponsible" service of alcohol, particularly where minors are concerned.
We have witnessed many incidents in past seasons where formals (not ours) have been raided by Licensing Police and found to be operating outside of the law. In some cases, people have been ejected from the venues and in other cases, the Police have sought to shut down the formals altogether.
In even more instances, we've seen people at other events refused admission to their formals for being intoxicated before arrival. These incidents are precisely what we are trying to avoid.
By making it very clear to everyone exactly what their responsibilities are well before the day of the event, we're helping create an awareness of the laws and how they can affect formal guests.
We're certainly not in the business of throwing people out and shutting formals down. To date we've never closed a function and our events have frequently been visited by Licensing Police who have left completely satisfied that they have been well organised, that they are legally compliant, and that everyone was having a great time, safely and securely.
So to the question of breath testing. We must be absolutely certain that we are creating at our events an environment of legal compliance, complete security, and the execution of a duty of care where all concerned parents can feel comfortable leaving their teenagers for an enjoyable evening under the most vigilant, yet non-affronting supervision.
It is, in fact, due to the breath testing, that we are able to run these events with complete success. We introduced the breath-analysis equipment on a formal in September 2001. The message got through via the media and we saw an immediate and rapid decrease in the number of people coming to our events intoxicated. There's nothing negative that can be said about that at all.
This is a terrific result for all concerned as it proves that nobody has to be intoxicated to enjoy a fun evening. It also shows that young people can be quite mature and responsible when they need to.
Each peak-season (Oct-Dec), we conduct thousands of breath tests and find less than 1% of guests under the influence of any alcohol at all. Of those 1%, less than one third are minors and we are very pleased to report that we rarely have to refuse admission. We believe this is the way formals should be conducted everywhere. For this reason, we actively campaign to have procedures tested and legislated in favour of, for the safety of teenagers.
Schools have been reluctant in the past to become officially involved with these events, often leaving youngsters to fend for themselves in a functions market that isn't always easy to deal with. Now with the strictness of our adherence to the laws, and the ease of allowing our Event Management teams to put these formals together for them, we're finding schools, Principals, Deputies, Year Advisors and even Parents are now more willing to become involved and that's a good thing for everyone. We will always encourage that level of involvement.
The issue of civil liberties has been examined. We want to maintain total transparency on this issue. Every guest at one of our events may refuse to submit to our screenings if they wish. We are allowed to conduct these screening activities but cannot force them. We maintain however, that any person that chooses to refuse a test may be viewed as suspicious, therefore may be refused entry to the event for that reason. This potential refusal of admission is equally our right to exercise with or without the result of breath analysis or any other screening process.
Further to that, the issue has been raised as to the accuracy of the breath testing equipment used. For this reason, comprehensive testing was conducted in controlled conditions with a number of subjects, of varying ages and physical compositions. The conclusion was reached that the devices are accurate and efficient to within 0.01% on the visual range of the device meter. When taking into consideration the fact that minors attending formals in our participating hotels are not legally permitted entry showing any trace of alcohol whatsoever, we concluded that the accuracy of the devices was far higher than was necessary for our purposes and we continue to utilise them at all formals. The devices we use for breath-analysis are those that were suggested to us by the Senior Policy Advisor of the N.S.W. Department of Gaming, Racing and Liquor. Although the design of the devices we use may appear antiquated, despite thorough testing of more sophisticated "looking" devices that we conduct each year when new ones become available, we've so far found that even the newest and most sophisticated devices are less accurate, less practical and overall less reliable than the ones we currently use. Even the models currently used by Police fall short of the reliability of our machines.
The issue of hygiene was also a concern. We have created a special fitting for the breath testing devices that adapts them to accommodate ordinary plastic drinking straws so each person will have a fresh, clean straw to use for the test which is immediately disposed of afterward.
To maintain a transparent and honest account of the testing done, we've implemented a procedure whereby testing officers must operate among groups of licensed security operatives and any tests returning a positive reading for alcohol must be verified by more than one person in the group. There is a further procedure in place that accommodates testing a second time for anyone desiring an additional reading to be taken for their own verification. All readings are displayed upon request. Any reading registered where a guest may need to be delayed from entering a formal will always be recorded accurately and records are maintained for inspection by relevant authorities if necessary.
Although the media has classed us as "Pioneers" when describing our introduction of the breath analysis devices to the formal market, we must take a slightly more humble posture. It was not our innovation, but we're happy to take credit for developing the procedures more comprehensively. The idea is that we we assist venues and licensees to maintain strictest compliance with current liquor laws relating to minors. The Victorian and Queensland State Governments have also reviewed our security procedures, including our Breath Testing methods. They approved and permitted us access to their own state markets without any alteration to our methods, procedures or equipment.
Although it may be one problem when people have consumed liquor prior to their arrival at the Formal, it is certainly another when they intend to bring it with them for consumption during the Formal.
To safeguard against these potential problems, we have implemented a tough screening process involving checking of clothing, bags and receptacles, and even the search of the surrounding environment both inside and outside the function area, in case anything had been delivered and hidden earlier.
Formal guests are not physically "touched" during our screening procedures, as most contraband can be easily detected by hand-held electronic devices that do not come into contact with people. Visual inspections of bags and receptacles are all conducted thoroughly according to State Government approved "Search & Seizure" methods.
Confiscations of certain items will be carried out according to a thorough and complex "Contraband Withholding" system that has been successfully trailed over many years with great success. The picture inset displays just a few of the items found during our 2005 Formals using this process.
Aren't you glad this stuff didn't make it into YOUR formal?
This one has been a hot topic in the media lately.
Anyone who adopts the mentality of "not our kids, not our school" when it comes to Ecstasy, Ice and other recreational drugs is demonstrating extreme naivety. These things, as unsavoury as they may be, are very much a part of the teen culture, and should not be dismissed out of hand. Some of the most "well-to-do" schools have presented students to the doors of our Formals in the past, where they have been found in possession of large quantities of these drugs, among other undesirable things.
Extensive research has been conducted within our Security Team to identify, test and implement the most practical systems, and introduce the appropriate equipment for screening this dangerous threat to Formals.
For the sake of keeping the effectiveness of these particular procedures high, we would prefer not to elaborate on them on a web site. The procedures are safe, accurate, legal and effective. That should be sufficient information on the subject.
All Formals we conduct are required to be pre-ticketed, in most cases this is a state law. The tickets must contain certain information and be laid out a certain way. It is also required that a register of guests attending Formals be kept and be made available at call for inspection.
Our ticketing and Validation system satisfies both requirements electronically.
Each ticket contains the guests name, details of the event, venue, times and dates. A compendium of the rules of the event are printed clearly on the reverse side of every ticket, including warnings that our security procedures will be implemented at the door. This prevents any guest claiming that they were not informed of our procedures. By presenting a document that contains not only these warnings, but also has their name on it, deniability is elimiated.
The new MDP System, successfully trialed in the 2010 season, also now contains contact details of individual guests such as mobile phone numbers so that we can account for their whereabouts should they be missing from the event, or in the unlikely event of an emergency like an evacuation of the venue.
Each member of the Security Team is equipped with sophisticated 2-way radio communications with voice-activated headsets and microphones. The system is "closed frequency" which means that conversations are privately locked only between those members of the team that are present on the night. The headsets also make conversations private and passive, which means that only the Guards can hear what's being said during transmissions.
What this system allows in terms of the security of guests, and the practical execution of procedures, is an ability for Guards to maintain a vigil even as far away as up the street and around the corner from the entrance to our venues. Often, the consumption, or concealment of contraband articles is conducted outside venues prior to entering. Now we can monitor these activities and report them passively and discreetly to the team awaiting the arrival of guests at the doors of the function space for the appropriate action to be taken.
This also allows the easy reporting of suspect activities of guests inside the function so they can be monitored by all Guards during the event.
Strangely, our electronic devices and procedures have caused no concerns to anyone at the door of formals. Breath testing seems to have some curiosity attached because it's usually identified as being equipment used exclusively by Police, even though it's available to anyone and there is no restriction on its use. A journalist was quoted as saying "that it's easier to get a bomb onto an international flight than get contraband into one of our formals". Humorous as that sounds, we rather enjoy the truth of it.
Since newspaper journalists and radio announcers began reporting on our strict security measures, we have received calls from other Event Managers in the industry, including those involved with the ever popular "Schoolies" events in Queensland, asking about our procedures in order that they may implement similar standards. We’re ever ready and willing to assist in making these sorts of events safe for our young people, no matter who is running the event. Our aim is to keep people safe and do our small part to keep the industry honest. If anyone ever ask for information we've developed for keeping teen events safe, we're happy to share.
Some venues, who are not even participating in the Prom Night Programme, have called us to ask if we can lend them our security teams and equipment for their own formals because we have earned a reputation for the very finest security practises in the business.
In 2003 our security procedures were drawn into a 37 page legislative reform document that was presented at the N.S.W. Alcohol Summit at Parliament House by representatives from The Commission for Youth & Young People. We have been acknowledged as the authors of the Formal Industry's "Best Practice" for security and legal compliance.
It has become obvious to us that from a short-term business viewpoint, the practises of this tight security measure cuts deeply into our profitability. It goes to follow that we’d be making far higher margins if we were going the way others in our industry have gone, and capitalising on the sale of liquor to formal guests, illegally or otherwise. We believe that our stance will have far greater rewards for both us and the industry at large in the long term, provided that we continue to receive the kind of support shown to our initiatives that we enjoy at this moment from so many areas of the community.
We welcome any and all inquiries on these issues and I make myself personally available, whenever convenient, to discuss them in greater detail with any interested party.
It really is worth taking a few minutes to read this section. It can mean the difference between a total success or a complete disaster at your Formal.
We consulted the various departments of each of the State Governments in the areas we operate. Our procedures and rules are based on what we learned from them. We also consult with Church and various Parent and Community Groups to find out what the moral and social implications of our policies might involve.
We aren't against alcohol. What we are against is the ILLEGAL or IRRESPONSIBLE supply of alcohol.
We obviously aren't against School Formals. What we are against is the ILLEGAL or IRRESPONSIBLE hosting of School Formals.
We pride ourselves on structuring the safest and most law-abiding events. It's good for the venues, it's good for us, it's best for you!
Let's look at what's OK and what's not OK at home.
There's an old tradition of having a couple of drinks at home with Mum and Dad before heading off to the formal. The "Pre's" have become a part of Formal culture in Australia, and although this event has existed somewhat "under the radar" for years, there is legislation in place concerning how this is conducted.
Many people believe that if you're at home with your parents, and you're under 18, that it's quite OK to have a couple of cocktails or champagnes. It's very important that both formal guests and parents understand this. There is a rumor going around that it's OK to drink if the alcohol was supplied by your own parents in your own home. Well there seems to be some grey area here. According to our understanding of the Liquor Act, the supply of alcohol to a minor, under any circumstances, is illegal, however, according to the NSW Department of Health, in brochures they've recently published, if a minor is granted alcohol in their own controlled environment by a parent or legal guardian, that's (according to NSW Health) perfectly legal. It is abundantly clear though, that any service of alcohol to a minor that IS NOT your own son or daughter, is a crime with penalties involved.
There is one thing that remains absolutely Black & White, with no room for interpretation at all. Whether a minor has consumed alcohol supplied by parents or others at home, legally or illegally, or has consumed alcohol anywhere else, arriving at the door of licensed premises, school formal or not, is illegal and entry is not permitted under any laws no matter who says otherwise. Zero tollerance applies, just as with P-Plate drivers.
In the past, we've had 15 and 16 year olds turning up at the formal intoxicated but trying to use the excuse "It's OK because Mum gave me the drinks". Believe us when we tell you that this is not acceptable and not legal. You won't be allowed in to the event under these circumstances, no matter what your parents say.
What's even worse than that is that in some cases, minors who get a drink from Mum and Dad think it's OK to drink as much as they like elsewhere, and drink more on the way from home to the venue. That's the worst thing. No matter where the liquor comes from, or who gives it to you, it's not legal to turn up intoxicated, or with any alcohol in your system whatsoever, if you're a minor.
The "Pre's" are often also a tradition and it's pretty common to see 30 or 40 formal guests all meeting at one person's home for a drink before going off to the formal. Well this is yet another situation where the Black & White exists so both formal guests and Mums & Dads - take note! If Mum & Dad want to serve alcohol at the Pre's, they're absolutely, 100%, undeniably NOT PERMITTED to make that alcohol available to any minor that is not their own child unless they have a written & signed note from that child's own parent or legal guardian.
The whole excuse that someone else's parents supplied you the alcohol at their home is not acceptable under the law.
Just try to keep in mind that Mum and Dad may rule at home, but they don't Govern the State and they don't write the policies of Venues and Event Managers. If they give their own son or daughter any alcohol, at home they may or may not be committing a crime. The moment they send them off to licensed premises, that's where the offence is really being committed.
In many cases, they may not even know they're doing anything wrong by offering you liquor. YOU have to be the smart one and be responsible for what you do.
The easy answer is - If you're under 18, Don't Drink!
Let's look at what's OK and what's not OK with Formals.
"Hotel" License or "On-Premises" License
In the case of Hotel or Public Entertainment Venue licenses, before a school formal can be booked, the venue needs to apply for, and be granted, a special permit known as a "Minor's Functions Authorisation". Put quite simply, if they don't have one, they can't host your Formal, and if they do have one, they can't sell any alcohol to anyone at that Formal (regardless of age).
Pretty much ALL Formals are mixed ages including Minors. In almost all cases, Minors who attend formals will not be escorted by their parent or legal guardian for the entire duration of the function. In these instances, it's not legal for any alcohol to be available at all in those venues. Simple!
In the case of On Premises Licenses, the Minor's Functions Authorisation is not compulsory but strict controls are recommended by the government.
Some of our venues (very few) are operating under different licenses that allow the service of alcohol to adults during Formals. At these venues, extra rules apply so that they can ensure that "Legal" and "Responsible" service of alcohol is conducted. If we conduct a formal in these premises, regardless of what may be legal, we will not allow alcohol to be served to any minor and we go to extreme lengths to make certain that A/ Minors cannot access alcohol, and B/ That adults are heavily restricted on how much alcohol they consume, and where inside the venue they can drink. In most cases, alcohol would only be available to Teachers and Parents.
Basically, we want you to be aware that we're on your side. We want to make sure that nothing ruins your big night.
There are plenty of people out there who will offer you venues, packages, prices, and all sorts of things. They may even be high-profile companies or well-known venues themselves. Be aware that not all of them are legally allowed to be selling you some of the things they offer. Some are not evenn legally permitted to host Formals.
If you want peace of mind, rest assured that anyone who participates in our formal programme must be fully compliant with the laws of their state. Book through us and you have nothing to worry about.
For those interested in knowing more about this issue, feel free to contact our office and we can make available to you all sorts of information.
Prom Night Events is proud that we comply fully with all State legislation regarding the safe and legal hosting of School Formals.
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