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Head of Content, IFSEC and FIREX

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Charlotte Geoghegan (nee Wright) is Head of Content for the Protection & Management portfolio, which includes IFSEC and FIREX live events and IFSEC Global.com
August 24, 2015

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The Video Surveillance Report 2022

How ExCeL London is kept Safe and Secure [Video]

ExCeL London is an exhibitions and international convention centre in the London Docklands situated between Canary Wharf and London City Airport.

Opened to the public in 2000, the multi-purpose venue covers 100,000 square metres and can fit more than 68,000 visitors at any one time.

It’s home to hundreds of events through the year that range from large exhibitions such as IFSEC International to intimate weddings, dramatic film sets, school exams and big sports competitions. What’s more, the in-house team is responsible for overseeing hotels, apartments and stations, which all lie within the centre’s 100-acre estate.

We met with the ExCeL team to understand how they approach security, fire, health and safety and facilities management in such a complicated environment.

Download your free copy of the Protecting London report here

Security at the ExCeL London

Americo Abreu is manager of the security team, with responsibility for assessing possible threats, ensure there’s sufficient manpower onsite and keep colleagues informed of any threats or incidents.

The team work shifts so the site can be secured 24/7, and they are split into three teams. Each team has a leader based in the control room, along with a controller who operates the systems and  patrolling officers, one of whom is responsible for emergency response.

All the fire phones within the venue go through to the security control room where there’s a 3-4 minute window for response before there’s an evacuation. When there is a call, a fire officer will be deployed to the area with immediate effect in order to investigate.

Different events bring with them different security threats, so Americo attends clients’ planning meetings and engages with the authorities so he has as much information about risks as possible.

Each event is threat assessed through collaboration between the ExCel, organisers and the authorities. Due to the UK terror threat reaching a severe level there was a change in the way threat assessments are conducted and while the UK threat level is determined by third-party intelligence the venue threat level is determined by the ExCel security team.

It’s not just the venue that Americo is responsible for, but also the 100 acre estate. He regularly meets with staff from the hotels to discuss crime figures and possible threats and to ensure effective communication they recently started a crime prevention group called Newham Dockside Hotel Watch. ‘Sharing information is very important to mitigate risks and minimise crimes onsite’, Americo tells us.



ExCeL London covers 100,000 square metres and can fit more than 68,000 visitors at any one time.

Fire safety

Fire safety is the role of Ian Tynan, who is responsible for checking emergency lighting, ensuring the public address system is ready in case of an evacuation, confirming correct staffing levels in fire safety, making sure all the organising teams and venue staff are all up-to-date with ExCel London’s emergency procedures, checking sprinklers, servicing all the portable fire extinguishers, checking all the lorry ways and boulevard shutters open and close properly, making sure emergency lighting is working and of course responding to any alarms.

Naturally, Ian works closely with the Health & Safety team, but he also has to liaise very closely with the cleaning department, because during exhibition build-ups and break-downs there can be rubbish which causes a fire hazard.

When we ask Ian about his typical working week, he says it’s difficult to describe because different events can have completely different priorities, so parts of his job change on a weekly basis.

Ian tells us about one exhibition which has a crèche, so the priority there is to evacuate young children first in the case of an emergency. Film shoots also bring unique requirements, sometimes using pyrotechnics. And for conferences, crowd safety and crowd movement is a bigger issue than at exhibitions, for example, because if there’s a lunch break everyone will come out into the boulevard at the same time. Some events will also create small conference rooms by draping off areas of the halls, so in those circumstances Ian may need to make sure that if all the lights were to fail, emergency lighting would be visible.

Ian points to the number and diversity of events he manages as the biggest challenge of his role. ‘Doing the fire safety at such a large exhibition centre, the main challenge I would say is just the sheer amount of events that you can have in any one time.’

Managing a hundred-acre site

Looking after the ExCel London’s estate is the responsibility of Geoff Conaghan. As well as the exhibition centre, the site includes several apartments, six hotels (including one on a permanently moored yacht), a DLR station and a Crossrail construction site. There are also lawns and a pond which need tending to and keeping clean.

Geoff tells us about his daily routine, which starts each morning with a walk or drive around the perimeter. If the security team alert him to any issues that need attending to, like hoarding falling down for example, he will go and investigate whilst also keeping a look out for anything else might need his attention.

Another large part of Geoff’s role now and for the next few years is managing the ExCel’s relationship with the Crossrail team, who have three constructions sites within the grounds. Crossrail, which is the largest infrastructure project in Europe, expects to have lines up and running by 2018, and the new Custom House station will reduce journey times from the ExCel to Heathrow to around 43 minutes and to central London to just 10 minutes.

Geoff his extremely enthusiastic about the project and tell us seeing it out will be a big personal achievement; ‘It’s been brilliant being part of it’, he says. And his work doesn’t stop once the station opens – when the operating railway moves in, Geoff will be the main point of contact for his new tenants.

For more information on the CrossRail construction project, watch our interview with the CrossRail security team

The ExCeL London's North and South Event halls are a 87,328m2 column free space.

The ExCeL London’s North and South Event halls are a 87,328m2 column free space.


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Download: Protecting London

Protecting London Download

Protecting London is a behind-the-scenes exploration of how the capital’s most famous buildings operate.

Download this exclusive report to see how how security, safety, facilities and fire functions come together in:


  • The British Museum – how six million visitors are kept safe in Britain’s most popular tourist attraction
  • Royal Albert Hall – facilities management within the 19th century Grade 1 listed venue
  • ExCeL London – unique challenges presented by the ExCeL London’s 100 acre estate
  • Crossrail – protecting 10,000 workers in Europe’s largest construction site


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