Embracing a ‘Mind Shift’ in Event Security

Author: David McMillin       

Security Day in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo Credit Mary Deifer (RCC))

Over the past decade, security risks have moved to the top of agendas for event organizers, CVBs leaders, and convention center general managers. In some cases, the conversation about safety has paved the way to notable changes such as an updated bag policy and ID requirements at CES or mandated magnetometer screenings at the Spokane Convention Center. While there has been progress toward creating safer meetings and events, headlines of terrorist attacks in nightclubs, summer festivals, and crowded entertainment districts are a reminder of a sad reality: With any public gathering comes the need for well-considered protective measures.

Those measures were at the core of the first-ever Security Day in Raleigh, North Carolina. On June 19, the Raleigh Convention and Performing Arts Complex partnered with the International Association of Venue Managers (IAVM) to welcome 300 event organizers, first responders, and community members to discuss best practices for worst-case scenarios. The seven-hour program involved expert-led workshops, and each participant received IAVM’s Trained Crowd Manager certification. One of the key takeaways from the day was that, when it comes to planning for emergencies, everyone should feel like an empowered leader.

“The day underscored the need for a mind shift to recognize that everyone involved in an event is part of security,” Kerry Painter, CVE, CMP, CEM, director and general manager of the Raleigh Convention and Performing Arts Complex, told Convene. “It requires more than the individuals who act as official security. So if you’re a server approaching a banquet table, you’re also part of the security team.”

Many of the participants were accustomed to the typical ‘If You See Something, Say Something’ mantra, but Painter said that the program focused on taking on more responsibility — “see, say, do” — than bringing a potentially dangerous situation to someone’s attention.

A Bigger Conversation

Painter said that she hopes the Security Day will be an annual event, but she noted that security is an ongoing, daily conversation in Raleigh. She expects to host a live drill to test response capabilities within the next eight months. However, Painter hopes that Raleigh’s city-specific efforts will be paired with an initiative from the larger network of convention centers and arenas to develop a set of standards for security so that attendees know to expect the same experience when entering and exiting any major venue.

“We need to collaboratively work together to do this,” Painter said. “For example, there isn’t a consistent answer at this point when it comes to magnetometers. Many of us are using them for certain events such as political rallies or Comic Cons, but we should look at the big picture of all events.”

“Thankfully, convention centers have not been part of one of these horrible events,” Painter added, referring to recent mass shootings. “However, you can’t assume it’s not going to happen. We need to determine how we can evolve and how we can get our customers comfortable with the new norms of security.”

Offering Education to the Entire Face-to-Face Community

In addition to representatives from the traditional events community, Painter invited what might seem like an unlikely group to participate: the churches in Raleigh. “Churches are like convention centers,” Painter said. “They’re gathering places, but many of them cannot afford this type of training. Some might have two people who run the entire church. So I invited the entire list of church leaders, and they were thrilled to be part of it.”

“Convention centers often act as shelters in emergency situations like hurricanes,” Painter said. “But this type of education is another way that we can give back to the larger community. Everyone needs assistance with knowing how to manage crowds and how to deal with crisis situations. We can help provide that training.”

Interested in more perspectives on the changes in event security? Click here to check out an interview with the LA Auto Show’s Terri Toennies to hear how her approach to crowd management has evolved.