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Opryland: security in harmony.


MUSIC, AND plenty of it--from country to Broadway, from gospel to rock 'n' roll--is served up in home-style heapings in Opryland, home of American music. Not only is the music selection eclectic but so are the security services, which range from mounted rangers to closed-circuit television.

Security has to be diverse in Opryland because Opryland represents so many different entities, Opryland USA, the umbrella term given to this unique collection of entertainment, broadcasting, and hospitality businesses, is located on 406 acres nine miles outside Nashville, TN. Within the physical boundaries of Opryland USA is Opryland, a 120-acre musical entertainment theme park. The park includes the Grand Ole Opry House, which is a broadcast studio and home of the Grand Ole Opry; The Nashville Network (TNN), a cable television network; and the General Jackson, a four-deck, 300-ft.-long paddle wheel showboat moored adjacent to the park on the Cumberland River. Also adjacent to the park is the Opryland Hotel, Tennessee's largest convention hotel and the site of the 35th Annual ASIS Seminar and Exhibits to be held September 11 to 14.

Add it all up: a theme park, which last year boasted an attendance of over 2 million people (35,000 per day during peak season), full of thrilling rides and musical productions plus radio and television studios packed with priceless recording equipment and regularly hosting top-name entertainers plus a giant showboat that cruises up and down the river year-round. All this typically would equal one big headache for security. Not so at Opryland.

The park's security department handles it all with old-fashioned ingenuity. It has divided its security force of 187 rangers into three divisions: special functions, operational, and mounted rangers.

Special functions rangers handle the security responsibilities of Opryland Hotel, which include convention and exhibit hall security, special events and shows throughout the Opryland complex, and dignitary protection. Operational rangers patrol the complex, monitor regular security concerns such as employee and visitor access to restricted buildings, provide the security on the showboat's cruises, investigate accidents and thefts, and assit guests with individual security needs.

These guest assists, as they are called, include helping guests who have mistakenly locked their keys in their cars, have car trouble, or may need emergency medical assistance while waiting for the paramedics and emergency medical tehnicians to arrive. "They also deal with lost children--and parents," Gordon D. Stephens, Opryland's operations manager adds.

The most visible division of the security department is its mounted rangers. These rangers secure the outdoor environs surrounding the hotel, Opryland park, and the parking lots of the complex. "The value of the mounted unit is really unbelievable," notes Stephens. "From his or her perch atop a horse, the mounted ranger can see above the automobiles and vans and between campers, motor homes, and buses a lot easier than a ranger could in a lower-profile security vehicle. The mounted ranger not only acts as a deterrent but also as an instant response unit for guests."

Another noteworthy function of the mounted rangers is maintaining crowd control. "There aren't too many people around who will try to cross a horse," comments Stephens.

THE CRITICAL ISSUE OF EFFECTIVE hiring and training of capable personnel is on every security manager's mind, especially considering the high price a company could be forced to pay in litigation due to incompetent security personnel and policies. As Opryland is a labor-intensive business, these issues are a priority. Its management is a firm believer in providing individual attention not only to each guest but also to each employee.

The standards for hiring and training Opryland rangers are regulated by Tennessee law. A recently enacted law, notes Stephens, mandates specific requirements an individual must meet to be a registered security officer in the state.

"We have to take a very close look at each application and scrutinize it for indications of a criminal history," says Stephens. After the application is reviewed, an individual is interviewed and given a written test and may be temporarily hired and registered pending the outcome of his or her background investigation--another requirement by law.

"In addition to investigating each ranger applicant's background, we file their registration application with the state and send three sets of fingerprints to the requisite agencies: one to the Department of Insurance and Commerce, which also does its own background investigation on each applicant; the second to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation; and the third to the FBI," explains Stephens. If evidence comes back to Stephens indicating anything not in compliance with the law, he terminates the ranger.

Tennessee law also requires all security officers in the state to be trained by certified instructors. The state, however, only requires four hours of training for an unarmed security officer, which according to Stephens is not enough for Opryland: "We're not satisfied with such a minimum amount of initial training. Our basic ranger training program includes 46 hours of classroom training, which encompasses everything from orienting the rangers to the park and its operations to an explanation of legal powers and limitations and the preservation of evidence. It also includes first aid training."

Two years ago the security department implemented an additional program to supplement its basic training. "Before that time," comments Stephens, "we simply placed the new rangers with a seasoned ranger after their basic classroom training and expected the seasoned ranger to train them in all possible functions. We found there was no uniformity or standardization in the training, so we asked for help."

The department turned to a field training officer program that had been developed and used at the San Diego and Denver police departments. After studying the program, Stephens attended a seminar presented by the Institute of Police Technology and Management, a nationally recognized training facility at the University of North Florida. These two programs helped Stephens set up Opryland's own program of using training officers in the field.

"Now after the rangers attend their basic classroom training, they are assigned to a field training officer for two weeks to learn the specific functions required for the specific post," continues Stephens. "That officer shows them the ropes, so to speak."

Each day of the training the rangers are critiqued not only by their field training officers but also by their supervisors. If a ranger requests and is granted a new post, he or she is trained another two weeks for that position.

Additional advanced training is also available to Opryland rangers during their off-duty time. Opryland contracts with law enforcement officers from various academies and police departments to instruct its rangers on the latest security techniques and technologies. This higher level of training enables the rangers to obtain licenses to carry firearms after meeting state requirements for firing range training. Thirty-nine of Opryland's rangers are armed.

WHILE THE THREE RANGER divisions handle separate functions, they all are responsible for fire and safety inspections. Rangers check extinguishers, sprinklers, valves, pipes, and all fire alarm systems, including bell and electronic alarms. They also check to ensure all pathways are free from obstructions and all fences and rides in the park are secure.

Even though a fire department is located across the street, Opryland takes no chances when it comes to fire safety. The park has its own 500,000-gallon water tower on the grounds to provide immediate fire extinguishing. This tower provides water for the sprinkler systems of the park and the hotel. In case the tower's electric pump becomes inoperable, a diesel pump is available in the water tower facility as a backup.

Also, many of the operational rangers are trained to serve in fire brigades to assist the fire department in accessing and controlling fires. These rangers organize into immediate response units once a fire has been discovered, escort the fire department to the scene of the fire, and set up barricades to protect the guests.

One aspect of security that is not solely monitored by the rangers is ride safety. Opryland has an extensive inspection system carried out by its maintenance crew on every piece of equipment in the theme park throughout the year, including rails, fences, and gates.

When the park closes down in the fall of each year, the maintenance crew disassembles all 21 rides and reworks all the bearings and shafts. It then performs high-tech inspections on all the steel structures, welded joints, and electrical components. Even Opryland's cable car, the Sky Ride, is taken apart, and its cables are x-rayed.

AS AN ENTERTAINMENT THEME park, Opryland is a place for guests to enjoy the music and rides; management does not want them to be concerned with their own security. Thus, Stephens explains, his staff maintains a low profile yet remains highly accessible.

"In a large manufacturing plant, I could see the need to use high-tech equipment such as fingerprint scanners and other biometric devices to monitor guests and personnel," he remarks, "but in an entertainment complex we need eye contact with our guests and employees. In this type of operation, it would be difficult to replace our human resources with technology without alienating anyone."

The level of security in Opryland USA varies within each facility. For example, the interior of the park, which draws thousands of people each day to experience rides such as CHAOS, the Old Mill Scream, and the Grizzly River Rampage, is continuously patrolled by rangers and monitored by closed-circuit television (CCTV).

The Grand Ole Opry House, however, requires a higher degree of security. The 4,400-seat Opry House, which is used for television productions, concerts, and theatrical productions, has a massive 110-ft.-wide wooden stage. The stage in itself would present a potential for a major fire if it were not for the sprinkler system installed beneath it. The audience is well protected from potential fires on and behind the stage area, too, by a fire curtain and a water deluge system. This system has been designed to send a continuous stream of water down between the audience and the stage to shield the audience while it evacuates the building.

Separate from the Opry House is TNN--the television production center. Adjacent to the studio are the lighting, audio, and video control rooms packed with electronic components necessary for television production. These areas are protected with halon and sprinkler systems.

To secure these assets from uninvited or nefarious visitors, Opryland uses a combination of rangers, CCTV, and various internal access control systems. Several rangers are always posted backstage in the Opry House as well as in the audience to maintain crowd control during shows.

The $12 million General Jackson showboat does not escape the security department's attention either. To meet Coast Guard requirements, Opryland's operational rangers serve as the deck watch whenever the boat leaves its dock in the evenings. On average, at least two rangers and one paramedic are aboard during all cruises.

Opryland's security department is also responsible for maintaining and operating a chase boat for the General Jackson. This boat is used to access the showboat during a cruise to deliver emergency messages or return ill passengers to shore.

DURING ITS PEAK TOURIST SEASON Opryland has approximately 6,500 employees serving its guests. Monitoring the comings and goings of employees who work in the facilities that require high security has been simplified by the use of magnetic stripe cards. Card readers and rangers are positioned throughout various sections of the broadcasting studios and theaters.

Employee entrances to the park are tightly controlled, too. Each employee is assigned to a specific entrance gate, at which he or she must display a car sticker and employee identification card. Employees not listed on the rangers' clearance list at the gates cannot enter the park.

In addition to access control, Opryland has nearly 200 active CCTV cameras monitoring the entire complex--the park, the parking lots, the broadcasting studios, and the hotel. The monitors operate on a kick over system in which a different view of the complex is displayed at the central monitoring station every 10 seconds. According to Stephens, most cameras are located in the critical areas of the park where money is handled, in the hotel, and in the broadcasting studios.

Whether guests to Opryland USA are enjoying a water ride in Opryland park, a musical production at the Grand Ole Opry, an evening cruise on the General Jackson, or an exhibit-filled convention at Opryland Hotel, their security is well in hand. "At Opryland, the security department functions as a protective agency for everything," remarks Stephens. "No matter what's going on, security is a part of it."

PHOTO : Opryland park offers visitors a deluge of musical stage productions and adventurous rides.

PHOTO : To ensure the safety of its performers and visitors, the park's security department

PHOTO : employs a combination of rangers, CCTV, and internal control systems.

PHOTO : The 4,400-seat Grand Ole Opry House requires a higher level of security than in other

PHOTO : areas of Opryland USA. Its stage has a unique sprinkler system installed beneath it plus a

PHOTO : water deluge system to protect the audience in case of a fire.

Joan H. Murphy is assistant editor at Security Management.
COPYRIGHT 1989 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Murphy, Joan H.
Publication:Security Management
Date:Aug 1, 1989
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