Leveraging Local Relationships to Prepare for a Crisis

Author: Casey Gale       

secure tourism

A panel at the Secure Tourism Summit in New York City featured (from left) Ray Suppe, Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority; Dave LaPorte, Denver International Airport; Frances Townsend, CBS News; Jorge Costa, San Francisco Giants; and Kathleen Matthews, formerly with Marriott International​. (Jenna Bascom Photography)

Planning for the worst is crucial to performing at your best during an unexpected, potentially life-threatening incident, whether it’s a natural disaster or an act of terrorism. This means not only performing drills and providing training to employees, but also creating a comprehensive disaster-recovery plan that details what to do and whom to call in the event of an emergency.

At the U.S. Travel Association’s Secure Tourism Summit — held at the New York Marriott Marquis on April 19 — Frances Townsend, national security analyst for CBS News and former assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism during the George W. Bush administration, discussed crisis readiness with a panel that included Ray Suppe, executive director of customer safety for the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority (LVCVA). Townsend noted that the key to drafting a successful plan is building public–private partnerships. “Perhaps the most important thing that comes out of the planning and the experience in a crisis is the relationships,” she said. “Looking back at the Hurricane Katrina response, they didn’t have those. They didn’t know who to call.”

Secure Tourism

Ari Fleischer, former White House press secretary, speaks at the Secure Tourism Summit in New York City. (Jenna Bascom Photography)

To that end, Suppe said when considering how to continuously improve the emergency plan for the Las Vegas Convention Center — a 3.2-million-square-foot facility that has 5,500 doors — he connects with colleagues. He maintains relationships within the Las Vegas Security Chiefs Association (LVSCA), a longstanding group made up of every security head and public-safety agency in the Las Vegas community. LVSCA meets monthly, Suppe said, and talks daily via email to discuss “security professionalism, training, and partnerships.”

He also works closely with the Southern Nevada Counterterrorism Center, which employs an intelligence analyst dedicated solely to the resort community — a position funded by the Las Vegas Convention Center — in addition to the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, which keeps Suppe informed of any security matters on the Las Vegas Strip.

When it came to first putting an emergency plan down on paper, the relationships that Suppe has forged during his 25 years at the LVCVA came into play. “I went to my friends in the industry in Las Vegas,” he said. “I went to the other heads of security for the larger corporations that own and operate the majority of hotel and casino properties on the Las Vegas Strip. I asked them for help — can they help me write my plan? And in the end, we went to one of their consultants, who helped us write our business-recovery plan.”

Having another person to spot any potential problems in the plan, Townsend said, is critical to its completion. “You can rely on each other,” she said. “Have a fresh set of eyes come in and look at these contingency plans to make sure you didn’t miss anything.”


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