ID cards for special events provide security as well as a means to identify VIPs.

Events should be fun — full of laughter, chocolate mousse and balloons. Instead, many special events come with video monitors, metal detectors and bomb-sniffing dogs. The need for increased security is not lost on event organizers, who employ sophisticated tools and techniques to deal with the unique security challenges in today’s world. No matter how elaborate the event or the security system supporting is, however, ID cards almost always play a key role.

“Controlling who does or doesn’t get in the door, whether that door is backstage or along an outdoor rope line, is often the main security objective at an event,” said Pat Cosmo, general manager for Integrated ID Systems Inc., supplier of ID card security systems to some of the largest and most publicized events in the United States. “Simple visual identification might be enough for small events with low security risks, but high-profile events need enhanced security systems, beginning with access control readers that identify and admit persons with the appropriate credentials.”

While biometrics cover a growing part of the industry, most organizations still rely on ID card technology. This technology ranges from less expensive barcodes or magnetic strips to more sophisticated RFID technology that combines multiple technologies on a single card. With RFID, planners can connect both physical and logical access, especially computer networks and databases.

“Access control requires more than just a card reader at the door,” said Cosmo. “Additional controls also need to be implemented to prevent the production of fraudulent cards.” This can be accomplished by adding visual security options, including embedded holograms or over-laminates with covert micro text, or by using software that automatically disables a printer being accessed illegitimately. “Products such as Fargo’s Print Security Manager for networked printers centralize the management of users, devices and materials to provide secure network control,” she added.

Still, security planners need to remember that scanning technology is only as good as those who support it. In many cases, volunteers are charged with this responsibility and need to be conscientious as they watch for invalid cards. “The further ahead of an event the cards are issued, the more chance someone has to counterfeit them,” Cosmo said. “Likewise, ID cards should expire at the end of the last day of the event.”

Outdoor Events

What happens when an event is held outdoors? Each year, the Monterey Peninsula Foundation, chaired by Clint Eastwood, hosts the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am with high-profile athletes, Fortune 500 executives and celebrities such as Donald Trump and Kevin Costner. Here, only thin ropes separate players from their fans. “Security never used to be an issue, but everything changed after 9/11,” said Cindy Minor, Monterey Peninsula Foundation ticket manager responsible for printing event ID cards.

The PGA TOUR provides credentials that allow professional golfers inside the ropes, and now the Foundation produces similar ID cards for amateur players and their caddies, 2,000 volunteers, drivers for the 200 courtesy cars, 100 or more security personnel, all medical personnel, media representatives and approximately 60 corporate sponsors. T-shirt-clad volunteers patrol the ropes to make sure only those with ID cards get inside. Other venues within the tournament space, including player trailers and corporate tents, have higher levels of security access.

Although not involved in the Pebble Beach tournament, Cosmo has handled her share of outdoor events and knows that they sometimes present surprising security challenges. “Sun block can eat away at some ID cards, which becomes an issue particularly on the barcode areas,” said Cosmo. “A simple overlay on the card can prevent disappearing barcodes at sunny events.”

Cliff Webster, vice president of sales and marketing with Images Sales Inc. worked with Cindy Minor in developing a more visible and secure badge/credential for both the Wal-Mart First Tee and the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am Golf Tournaments. “These badges vary in sizes from credit card, CR100, to a [4 inch by 6 inch] event badge with embedded anti-counterfeit material from overt, covert, to forensic levels of security. Examples would be embedded color shifting inks, thermochromic ink, holograms and watermarks, which will not require any hand held tools to monitor. These new additions, along with time-dependent material, to their badges, permits and paper documents will provide an easier way to help prevent and then identify fraudulent items,” said Webster.

Global Religious Events

Sadly, even religious organizations are security-conscious, including more than 30,000 members of the Church of the Nazarene, who met at the Indianapolis Convention Center and RCA Dome to ratify resolutions, elect leaders and worship. In the past, security meant having personnel patrol the convention floor with two-way radios and locking up expensive items at day’s end. A greater awareness of the need for security led them to initiate onsite photo ID badging at 20 computerized, self-registration stations. Because of the temporary nature of the conference, special automated card access and video surveillance systems did not make sense. Instead, photo ID credentialing controlled access to restricted areas. Cards were color-coded to identify various levels of access, including after-hours entrance to the exhibit hall for setup and takedown purposes.

The Pebble Beach AT&T National Pro-Am Tournament 2007 used event badging for better identification. From left to right: Peter Ettinger, president of Document Security Systems in Washington D.C.; Ollie Nutt, president/CEO of Monterey Peninsula Foundation in Pebble Beach, Calif.; Mike Caulley, president of Plastic Printing Professionals in Daly City, Calif.; Cliff Webster, V.P. sales & marketing for Image Sales, Inc. in Walnut Creek, Calif.; Patrick White, CEO of Document Security Systems in Rochester, N.Y.


Child safety was an added concern at this conference, with many activities planned for children. “By issuing photo ID badges to all individuals who worked directly with the young people, organizers helped parents feel more confident that only authorized individuals were coming in contact with their children,” said Linda Livengood, president of Daymark Solutions, which provided ID card security support to the convention.

“Many special events rely on volunteer assistance, making it a challenge to provide complete security training for everyone at the same time. With a large number of seasonal staff, AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am organizers couldn’t rely on helpers to remember how to use the ID card printer from one year to the next. This influenced their choice of printer and software, pointing them toward products that were straightforward, effective and easy to use,” said Webster.

“It has been our experience that review of security policies at the start of a volunteer shift is very beneficial,” said Cosmo. “It gives organizers an opportunity to update the volunteers on any procedural changes or emphasize areas of focus they need to have. It also gives the volunteers an opportunity to provide feedback on what their challenges have been, allowing you to provide solutions and guidance, creating a stronger security team.”

Events should be fun, and attendees should feel safe. ID cards are just one facet of a successful security program. For events that carry the message of welcome to all who attended the best outcome of all is deterring any incidents from occurring.