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The special needs of special event security.

Organizations spend millions of dollars every year on special events, meetings, and conventions. While corporations regularly use special events and meetings to gain recognition, they fail to consider the potential risks associated with these events. An untimely accident, criminal incident, or unanticipated emergency can cast gloom over an entire event, undoing all the goodwill it might have generated.

The unwary organization may suffer serious damage to its reputation, as well as to employee and customer relations. It may also lose proprietary information or even open itself up to liability. To avoid such potential problems, companies must integrate security and safety considerations into the advance planning process.

The host organization should acknowledge from the start that it is morally and legally responsible for the safety of employees and customers attending an event. Someone knowledgeable in the field of event security should be charged with primary responsibility. That person, who most likely would be the security director, then becomes an integral part of the pre-event, actual event, and post-event process.

Risks and liabilities can never be completely eliminated, but they can be significantly reduced. Precautions can make the difference between a successful event and a legal nightmare should incidents occur.

When an organization prepares to choose a site, the security manager should contact the local police station's crime analysis department to obtain current crime statistics and recommendations. He or she should work with the selected hotel or facility's security director to determine types of problems the staff there has experienced.

On international trips the security manager should contact the U.S. Department of State for current travel information and identify local resources that can provide current information for the venues to be used.

The security professional should also assess the surrounding environment of the venues, transportation routes, and activity locations that could pose security and safety-related problems. He or she should investigate the history of any activities and incidents, such as crime, labor problems, or acts of nature that may affect the venue or program.

The type of security personnel the facility provides is also important. Whether the staff at the convention site is certified in CPR and first aid and whether employees are trained in current security and safety topics should be ascertained. A review of the facility's emergency action plan should be performed to determine when the plan was fully tested, how various emergencies are handled, whether security patrols the interior and exterior of the facility, whether the exterior of the facility and parking areas are well lighted, and how the hotel or meeting facility security staff can support the event or meeting. The security professionals should also determine whether the event requires additional or special access control procedures, such as name badges, company identification, tickets, or special invitations.

If the event requires additional security, the security team should determine what is appropriate for the organization or event. For example, the host organization must decide whether off-duty uniformed or plainclothes police officers or contract security personnel would best serve the function and how many extra duty security personnel the program would require.

Special use rooms, such as the event control room, gift and equipment storage room, presentation room, and entertainers' rooms, should be rekeyed for authorized personnel access only. These areas should be evaluated to see whether special security equipment will be required to protect the room or its contents. It is also important to know about the other companies that will be using the facility before, during, or immediately after the client. They could be competitors. A host organization's name and activities are typically listed on the hotel or facility schedule board or TV. If the organization plans, for security reasons, to hold an event without public notification, security should make sure that such routine bulletins are not posted.

If proprietary information is being developed, discussed, or distributed on-site, a paper shredder that crosscuts the material into unreadable sizes should be rented for the event. Electronic inspections and monitoring services may also be needed. A locking file cabinet should be used for storing documents and other items that cannot be put in the facility's safe-deposit boxes. Attendees' welcome packets should include customized security, safety, and health tips. The information should be informative, not alarming.

Some general safety topics should be addressed prior to the event. In the pre-trip registration material, for example, the company may want to ask attendees to name someone to be contacted, both at the event in question as well as at home, in case of an emergency. On-site event itineraries that guests receive should contain the hotel and facility telephone numbers and addresses and how to contact the event staff for assistance if necessary.

The transportation of the organization's employees or guests is another important factor to consider. Placing too many senior executives, senior sales people, and special guests on the same plane or boat should be avoided. It could be disastrous if a problem occurs with the transportation.

Medical services. The security professional should determine the type, quality, and location of medical services available at the facility or nearby. It should be noted whether a doctor is on-call at the event site. Both a nonemergency and emergency care facility should be selected if both are available. Extra-duty medical personnel can be relatively inexpensive insurance. The author experienced firsthand that effective procedures at one hotel in Orlando, Florida, for example, saved the life of a woman attending a sales conference there. Having slipped into a diabetic coma, she failed to answer her requested wake-up call. Because the hotel's policy is to send security personnel to check on the welfare of any guest who does not respond to the wake-up call, the woman was discovered unconscious and rushed to a hospital in time to save her.

At a meeting in a New York hotel, however, it was too late when a business friend of the author requested that the hotel check the room of a forty-five-year-old executive who failed to attend his morning meeting. He was found dead due to a heart attack.

Life safety systems. The facilities should also have current life safety systems and programs, including fire sprinkler systems in meeting and guest rooms, smoke and fire detectors, an adequate number of emergency exits, emergency lighting, fire extinguishers, fire hoses and valves, and manual fire alarm pull stations. The security professional should consider the following questions with regard to the event facility's life safety features:

* Does the alarm system sounds automatically when activated?

* How is the fire department notified of an alarm?

* What actions does the facility staff take when the alarm sounds?

* How are guests with disabilities evacuated in an emergency?

* How often is the system tested?

* What was the date of the last test?

* Are clear emergency instructions posted in each guest room?

The local fire department can be a useful resource in answering these questions, as well as in generally evaluating a facility's fire preparedness. The response time of, distance to, and telephone numbers for ambulance, fire, police, and hospital emergency services should also be determined.

Outside services. The security manager should ensure that the transportation and special activity companies, such as tour bus companies, are appropriately licensed, insured, and experienced for their activity. These companies should also be required to demonstrate that they have the appropriate type and amount of safety equipment available for immediate use.

Communications. Communication with event staff personnel is important to a successful event and can be critical, particularly in an emergency. An effective communication system may require rented portable radios, cellular phones, pagers, or a combination of communication equipment. The security personnel should take the time to test the equipment at all sites.

Security should ensure that the event control room or desk has the appropriate emergency action procedures and contact numbers, such as the hospital, police, fire, medical services, weather, and special resources. The control room should also have first-aid supplies. The hotel or event facility must be provided with contact information to reach a host organization staff representative twenty-four hours a day for any situations that may affect the event or a participating attendee.

Contingencies. If an incident occurs, the security manager should be prepared to manage the incident in a manner that will reduce the impact on the attendees and the event. Security should discover whether a written contingency plan exists and if the event staff knows how to carry the plan out effectively. The means and method of emergency notification to attendees and emergency response providers should be predetermined. Security personnel should have an accurate copy of room assignments and should determine whether the emergency evacuation plan includes medical and nonmedical evacuation and transportation capabilities.

One final consideration is whether the nature of the event or location requires special insurance for event cancellation, or liability that might arise from other problems, such as medical situations, travel incidents, property theft, or loss of or damage to luggage.

When assessing the security and safety risks for any event, meeting, or trip, the security professional needs to know what to ask and how to get the right answers from the facility's staff or the host representative. When the answers or results are weak, he or she should follow up and investigate for a more complete analysis. Other resources should be checked to confirm the information. Arranging for the safety and security of colleagues and guests is not a simple matter. Hazards, both known and unknown, cannot be entirely eliminated. By making safety and security an integral part of management planning, however, organizations can dramatically lower the risks. In times of heightened risk and increased liability, it is not prudent to do otherwise.

Richard P. Werth, CPP, is the president of R. P. Werth and Associates, Inc., in Franklin, Tennessee. He is a member of ASIS.
COPYRIGHT 1994 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1994 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:Event Security; potential risks in company special events and meetings
Author:Werth, Richard P.
Publication:Security Management
Date:Jan 1, 1994
Previous Article:Sky-high disaster management.
Next Article:Integrity tests and the law.

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