Top takeaways from our ‘Lunch & Learn’ on conflict de-escalation and risk management

We have rounded up the top takeaways and insights following our training session with one of Australia’s leading security experts Scott Taylor from Praesidium Risk and Resilience.

Scott kindly shared his expertise and insights on the signs of risk and how to de-escalate a situation. 

  • Good customer engagement is one of the most important factors to safe venues. Greeting each and every customer with respect goes a long way to helping keep patrons calm and relaxed in the venue. It creates a connection from the start that means any future conversations can be handled at a calmer level. As Scott says, “if the first time we are having a conversation with a patron is to cut them off or kick them out, we’ve done our jobs wrong.”
  • Safety and security is everyone’s responsibility. Every single member of staff needs to be aware of the signs of potential conflict, understand the venue’s procedures and be in constant communication with one another. A key tip from Scott was to do a conflict hand-over so as one shift ended the next worker wasn’t walking in unaware that a patron had been argumentative or hostile.
  • There are visible signs that an issue is about to emerge, but you need to be paying attention. There are plenty of indicators that someone is under stress and possible preparing for a ‘fight or flight’ situation.  The risk isn’t always the one you’re paying attention to. Someone on the fringes and completely removed could become a greater risk which is why it’s important to pay attention to the entire situation, not just the immediate point of conflict. Some signs that suggest someone is under stress include:
    • Rapid blinking. People usually blink 12-14 times per minute when they are relaxed, in a state of stress that increases to ~30 times.
    • Rubbing of the back of the neck
    • Rubbing a spot on the body such as the hands or arms. If this escalates to scratching it’s a sign of increased agitation.
    • Looking away and over the shoulder of the person they are talking to. It suggests they’re looking for an exit route.
    • Blading, or turning the body away from the perceived threat in a boxer stance.
  • Be aware of the factors that lead to escalation of a situation. It’s rare that a conflict immediately starts out that way, it is usually a series of escalations. Signs of an escalation include:
    • Feelings of rejection and humiliation. If the person feels they’ve been called out, humiliated or cast aside they may be more prone to hostility.
    • Perception of inequality. Being treated differently to someone else creates feelings of inequality and hostility.
    • Intoxication and substance abuse.
    • Confusion and frustration.
  • Create your OODA loop. OODA stands for Observe, Orient, Decide and Act. It’s a tool to help people make informed decisions quickly. Observe the available information to hand such as the patron has started pacing back and forward while rubbing their neck – a clear sign of increased stress. Orient yourself to look at how you could or should respond. This might mean notifying other team members of the situation and going up in a calm way to see if the patron is ok. Decide your steps you’ll take next and lastly, Act. Once you’ve done it once, keep repeating the process again and again until the situation is managed.