Capitol Theatre & E-1 Solution’s Kenneth Schneider on Security’s New Normal: ‘The Pandemic Was Not In The Book’

Kenneth Schneider
– Kenneth Schneider
with Tommy Chong and Cheech Marin

As in every other aspect of the live business, much is uncertain in live event security space. However, unlike other sectors, much of the weight of that uncertainty is borne by security, which is tasked with keeping artists, patrons and staff safe. 

“It comes down to time,” says Kenneth Schneider, CEO of E-1 Solutions, with decades of experience in events of all size and type. “You need time to plan, you can’t be rushed anymore. If someone calls and says three weeks from now we’ve got an event and need 75 officers, that was easy. Now, not so easy. Now you have to look at the landscape of where you’re putting on this production, what it’s needs are, the flow of traffic, permits, many things.”
Talking to Schneider, whose company implements and advises security strategies for everything from PGA events to nightclub concerts, sounds much like the agents and promoters Pollstar hears from every day.  All are figuring out “new normal” on the fly while waiting for things to scale back up. But the liability situation on the security side is heightened, with an advisory/consultant role in how to handle protocol at events in line with local guidelines and being tasked with doing it in a guest-, staff-and artist-friendly environment. 
“The big thing is going to be re-training the events staff, security, ticket takers, ushers on the new protocols and policies,” says Schneider, who is also director of security for the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, N.Y.  “I don’t see us returning to normal for a while. You prepare, and as everything rolls back up to 25% to -40%-50-60-70% , that’s how you’re going to operate.”
How you operate now, of course, involves lots of testing, navigating local guidelines which can vary wildly from market to market, and managing socially distant crowds, concessions and traffic flow. This includes the in-progress Billy Strings residency at The Cap, where all staff shows up with paperwork showing they’ve tested negative, with the same staff working the duration of the residency to limit contact with others. 
While one challenge of the security industry is losing staff over the course of the pandemic, who may have found other jobs while unable to wait out COVID, Schneider says it’s important to keep staff happy and to provide for extra costs and inconveniences involved in getting tested and remaining safe during events. 
“You have to keep your work staff happy, everything is top-down,” Schneider says, noting the importance of event staff to the fan and artist experience. “If it’s good at the top, and the top understands and takes the message down, people are going to work and do the job. I’m a strong believer that if you treat the staff right, they’re going to do the right job and treat you right. If they do the right job, then the client is happy, the acts are happy and they want to come play your building.”
In recent years, calamities have brought heightened awareness and urgency to safety and security protocols at events, with stage collapses, natural disasters and terrorism chief among them. As has been the case for just about everyone, COVID-19 is different. 

Ken Schneider
– Ken Schneider
“We go to school for natural disasters, there are plenty of classes on how to deal with incoming storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, rain, thunderstorms, how to do evacuations, how to plan those things,” says Schneider, who has written extensive plans and protocols for local law enforcement, event producers and more. “Even if a pipe bursts in the theatre from old age, you have to have a protocol to make sure everybody gets out in an orderly way and no one gets injured. Medical incidents happen all the time. It’s very important for a general admission crowd when someone is having a medical episode, but we train for that.  
“Like I said during a class one day,  ‘We had a protocol for the zombie apocalypse, but not the pandemic.”
“The pandemic was not in the book.”