Staff to Patron Ratios: How many security guards do I need?

Staff to Patron Ratios: How many security guards do I need?


Security staff can have a positive or negative impact on an event or business operation, but they will be the first and last contact that your patrons encounter. As such, security are a vital representation of your event and of your leadership. Combined with an appropriate “hospitality mindset” and appropriately managed, security staff will contribute positively to the safety, security and success of your event. So, with the defined importance of suitable and sufficient levels of trained staff members, how is the decision made to answer “how many security guards do I need?”


If it could be as simple as applying a statute, a defined security standard out of the ASIS Protection of Assets Manual, or even a retail crowd safety guideline from OSHA, this question would hardly be as popular of an issue. However, there is no statute nor security standard defining the ratio of patrons to security staff. In most cases, while always blending security and safety, we should not exceed the crowd manager responsibility as per NFPA 101, but should we assign 1-to-10 or 1-to-100? How can we ensure an appropriate decision?

As with most security functions, an appropriate assessment is the most valid solution. The big ticket items to consider are Crowd Control & Critical Coverage

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Crowd Control  

Consider the following, collectively:

  • The Venue: What type is it? A biker bar vs a martini bar?
  • The Event: What type is it? A hiphop concert or a cello recital?
  • Demographics: Male and female split? Age group? Consider clashing of incongruous groups.
  • Incidentals: Weather? Amount of advertising or publicity?
  • Congestion & Friction: Patrons per square foot? Number of exits, entries, or floors?
  • Staff on Hand: Experience, training, supervision? Expectation/responsibilities?
  • Prior Incidents: What has happened at that venue, to those crowds, to similar places/crowds?
  • Alcohol: Dry or open bar? How does this relate with the other considerations?

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Critical Coverage

You will need to staff these positions to cover critical spaces and functions:

  • Assign a Head of Security
  • Ensure there is a reasonable Supervisor to staff member ratio.
  • At least one, preferably two assigned to duties at the Front Door and another to the Back Door
  • Ensure a reasonable assignment of Roamers to cover any other areas, such crowded areas, dance floors, VIP areas, hallways, etc.

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Lastly, over-train and over-staff. In a litigious society within a world where terrorism is an increasing threat to any crowd, err on the side of over staffing and over training. Cutting staff early and dealing with over-qualified employees is much easier to deal with than the contrary. Find your staff ahead of time, and find an effective, proven training provider to improve hospitality, reduce liability and increase profitability.

As always, this was simply my opinion, which may or may not be worth any more than what you paid for it. Stay gray. – JML

Joseph M. LaSorsa, CPP® is currently a senior partner managing and conducting: Protective Operations Training Courses, Executive Protection & Bodyguard Services, Risk Management Consultations & Seminars, Security Expert Witness Testimony, Workplace Violence Prevention Seminars & Intervention Services, Security Consultations & Seminars, Private Investigations and Technical Surveillance Counter-Measures with LaSorsa & Associates – an International Protection, Investigations & Consulting Firm.

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