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An Oscar-winning security plan.

YOUR Assignment: Plan and implement a comprehensive security program for a party thrown by a couple of hundred entertainment industry folks each March in Los Angeles.

One challenge prevails, however. This party attracts 6,700 distinguished guests inside and another few thousand fervent fans in the bleachers outside. For every 15 official attendees, the party requires one very well-trained security specialist with full logistical, emergency, and intruder-deterrent backup.

It's called the Academy Awards, and it ranks with the Olympics and the Super Bowl as one of the world's most watched spectacles, not to mention one of the world's most challenging single-event security problem.

But if the security provided to the Academy Awards ceremony and post-event parties is massive, it also differs from other bigtime events in at least one significant way. Where the management of the Super Bowl, for example, wants security to be highly visible as an immediate deterrent, the management of the Academy Awards doesn't want the ceremony to appear surrounded by a security curtain.

The celebratory mood of this annual get-together of many of the world's most glamorous, talented, and sensitive individuals cannot be marred by an army of uniformed officers hovering in the wings.

One of the many good news items emanating from the 1991 ceremony, where security was at an all-time high, was the outstanding patience and cooperation of the numerous awarders, awardees, and other attending VIPs. Several major motion picture stars were overheard to remark on their high degree of security comfort from what they could not readily see that evening (other than the magnetometers set up at several strategic locations).

The attendees and their fans, who were clustered outside the Shrine Auditorium where the Academy Awards ceremony is held, seemed to sense one basic fact of security life: The exigencies of our society dictate the need for security. We as professionals must meet the need as smoothly and unobtrusively as possible to do the best job.

However, one of the key strategies of the security plan was to inform invitees as well as the public long before the event took place about the importance of general security measures that would be taken.

Obviously, security specifics could not be divulged, but it was paramount to gain the understanding and cooperation of not only awards program producer Gil Cates and his staff but also the celebrity participants. Fortunately, Cates played an active role from the beginning in security planning.

When the event was over, the security team was pleased to hear one Oscar winner say that the safest place in Los Angeles the night of March 25, 1991, was the Shrine Auditorium. A Los Angeles police department (LAPD) senior officer commented that security was on a par with that afforded a visit by the President. CONSIDER THIS JURISDICTIONAL STEW: The security team consisted of more than 500 players, representing the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the LAPD, the California Highway Patrol, Pinkerton, the Shrine Auditorium security staff, and the Department of Transportation.

Now add three helicopters from three different agencies to scan the skies over the area. Mix in a number of personal protection specialists retained by individual attendees. Season this with the usual noisy demonstrators who routinely appear at such televised events as well as frantic fans who have been doused by an all-night rain while camping out for the best bleacher seats in the area.

Dump into our stew a traffic jam of vehicles driven to the site by invitees, fans, demonstrators, and the chauffeurs of the numerous limousines carrying VIPs--not to mention the fact that the auditorium is located in a congested part of downtown Los Angeles.

It all worked for a number of critical reasons:

* We started planning several months ahead. Not only was every conceivable contingency explored and met with a plan but also these meetings gave us a chance to get to know each other's personality and operating methods. Retaining a single outside security firm and a security team that has generally experienced little turnover over the years added even greater stability and reliability.

* Planning involved everybody. Planning involved all participating security agencies, and everyone's turf was clearly and amicably spelled out in advance of the event.

* The awards program's key people were also involved from the beginning. In addition, only two individuals, working closely together, had the authority to make the ultimate calls on procedure during the event--Jerry Moon on security decisions and Gil Cates as the final authority on overall "stop-start-change" decisions about the program itself.

* We assumed that the worst could happen. The slightest suggestion of a security problem was handled promptly as if it actually was a problem.

Here we employed techniques perfected by our friends in Israeli security:

* Screen everybody and everything (including production crews and their equipment) at strategic, controlled entry points, using sophisticated magnetometers and "possible-perpetrator" profiles.

* Use four-person teams at each magnetometer for speed and backup during screening.

* Train already trained personnel in important techniques such as under-vehicle and trunk searches, for example.

* Execute all those steps without fanfare and with as little inconvenience as possible--but make no exceptions and assume nothing. THE AUDITORIUM'S LOCATION AND layout presented their own challenges.

For example, adjacent to the auditorium grounds is a large parking structure that also serves the University of Southern California. Several high-volume city streets run to or near the property.

The complex itself is a huge auditorium with 6,700 seats, a spacious stage complete with side rooms and catwalks, other meeting rooms used by the Shriners, and more than one subterranean level.

Thus, it was imperative not only to orchestrate entry to the awards ceremony and maintain close, cordial crowd control but also to seal off casual access to the area beginning two weeks before the ceremony.

This stringent access control measure meant checking every inch of the complex daily and using a team of LAPD dogs trained specifically to smell out explosives. (By the way, 6:00 am is the best time of day for their delicate noses.)

During the same period, every truck and automobile entering the grounds was checked. Any television production vehicle entering on the day of the ceremony was checked, then sealed at entry, with the seal as well as the underside rechecked at the truck's final internal destination.

And we ensured that deliveries and other normal visits weren't on a routine schedule to prevent any intruder's planning to intercept or use an expected vehicle.

Envelopes of every size received during the two-week quarantine were examined for possible bomb mechanisms. All flowers, candy, or other items delivered to individuals involved in the ceremony were subjected to the same scrutiny.

On the day of the ceremony local law enforcement agencies rerouted traffic around the facility and used buses and trucks to block direct-access streets (and thus any potential invader vehicle). Invitees driving their own vehicles were directed to designated parking areas, where their vehicles were checked and their admittance was limited to magnetometer entries.

Chauffeur-driven limousines were guided to other designated drop-off points and their passengers admitted through similar magnetometer-equipped entryways.

Meanwhile, the loyal fans who had spent the previous night awaiting entry were finally admitted to the area surrounding the building at 8:00 am on awards day through magnetometer-equipped gates. Any item, including a camera, that could be easily thrown was banned at the gates. Purses were thoroughly searched and returned to their owners. Valuable items were returned promptly after the ceremony ended and invitees had departed.

Personal umbrellas were not allowed, but the academy spent more than $5,000 on umbrellas (prechecked, of course), which were given free to those waiting in the rain.

Every invitee had previously been mailed a special badge, which was coded to grant entry to a particular area, whether it was an auditorium seat or backstage. The academy changes badge designs and colors frequently but irregularly to forestall any clever forgeries. However, we still caught a number of gate-crashers who tried their best--or worst, since we caught them--to duplicate credentials.

Speaking of gate-crashers, we know practically every one of the so-called professionals, who actually are attention-seekers and generally harmless. Academy security once hired one as a consultant on gate-crashing techniques and to help spot some of the trickier members of his bizarre fraternity.

Inside the hall, we set up a central command post in conjunction with the LAPD where all security team activities were coordinated. The buck stopped at a single desk, the one staffed by Jerry Moon.

Because we acted as a team, with every specialist knowing his or her particular task and action area, it was comparatively easy for such centralized making.

In addition to strategic spotting of security personnel throughout the area--the "eyeball network"--we set up an electronic surveillance system.

Some security was visual, if unobtrusive, such as the uniformed officers attending the entry points. The rest was equally alert but unnoticed in keeping with the general principle that the event should be relatively unmarked by obvious security measures. CEREMONY PARTICIPANTS IN THE USUAL backstage melee didn't notice it, but the dozens of Oscar statuettes awaiting delivery to the hands of eager winners were also well guarded by security specialists in appropriate formal evening attire.

That little statuette may be worth about $250 wholesale, but it could command a lot more from certain movie buffs or collectors who might not want to know how Oscar came into their possession.

As any security professional reading this article can see, it's the little details that contribute most to the success of security on an event of the Academy Awards cermony's size and scope. Even the daily sweeps through the grounds were used as training exercises, wherein we placed dummy packages and other items in out-of-the-way niches.

Over the years, we've found it's fundamental to simulate various security-breach situations on a routine basis to test not only the alterness of our team members but also their approach to handling such situations.

Those "little details" extended down to first-aid facilities, for example. We could not rely on regular paramedics, who might not be available when the demand arose because of a need somewhere else in the city. So, we hired our own to be at the ready, complete with ambulances. We even brought in our own tow trucks to handle any vehicle blockage, accidental or intentional, that occurred.

The LAPD members of our security team treated demonstrators firmly but courteously, allowing them to brandish their placards and chant their slogans at a safe distance across the street from the awards ceremony.

Another little detail--the predictable crank telephone calls--were handled by our specially trained operators. They knew how to gain as much useful information from the caller as possible and keep him or her on the line to trace if necessary.

Producer Gil Cates was fully prepared to handle any on-the-air attention-getting actions by the audience. Taped highlights of past programs were ready to be shown at a moment's notice in place of any negative live action in the auditorium.

One audience member actually attempted to make a political statement during the show. However, his timing was poor. When he stood on his seat to begin his oration, a series of commercials had just started to roll. He was discreetly but quickly escorted from the scene.

The academy's in-depth analysis of the ceremony's security plan and its execution began about 10 minutes after the last award had been handed out and the invitees were heading for the exits.

The analysis is designed to make next year's security plan even more cost- and result-effective and to determine where and how the team as a whole and all of its members can do their jobs just a little better.

The Academy Awards is one big experience--and we keep learning.

PHOTO : Kevin Costner and his wife were among the more than 6,000 distinguished guests at the 1991 Academy Awards, where security was at an all-time high.

Jerry Moon is a security consultant to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Hollywood, CA. Larry Jorgenson is senior district manager of special services for Pinkerton Security and Investigation Services in Hollywood, CA. Jorgenson is a member of ASIS.
COPYRIGHT 1991 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:securing the Academy Awards ceremony
Author:Moon, Jerry; Jorgenson, Larry
Publication:Security Management
Date:Dec 1, 1991
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