Shaffer Security Group (SSG) founder Greg Shaffer, a 20-year FBI Supervisory Special Agent (retired), has designed, implemented, and managed security plans for NFL Super Bowls, NBA World Championships, MLB World Series, State Fairs, NASCAR events, and a host of other large-scale, high threat, “Special Events” across the globe.
Founded in 2015, SSG uses “best practices” employed by the FBI and the U.S. Secret Service, as well as strategies that have been effective for local law enforcement and private security, to develop a detailed and thorough security plan for your meeting or event. Although his focus is on events that often include a variety of VIPs and may be a target for protestors, demonstrators, criminals, or even terrorists, these same “best practices” can be implemented for small gatherings and corporate meetings.
In the Pre-Planning Phase, SSG recommends you use a “Check List” to address the safety and security challenges that each venue presents, such as:
- is the size AND location of the meeting room adequate,
- identify and locate all entrances/exits,
- can the emergency exits be opened from the outside,
- is security on-site if they are, are they armed or unarmed,
- is there an AED (Automatic External Defibrillator) available, if so, where is it, do you know how to operate an AED,
- is there a medical kit on-site, if not, bring your own,
- is the staff medically trained to handle minor injuries, stop the bleeding, administer CPR,
- how far is the nearest hospital, and what is the EMS response time,
- does the venue have a “hard room” to evacuate to provide protection from severe weather and an active shooter,
- can the doors to the meeting room be locked and secured from the inside,
- is there enough parking for attendees and is the parking away from the meeting room,
- can a vehicle be staged near the meeting room for emergency evacuation,
- is there a room to store valuable equipment or large items such as equipment containers or suitcases,
- where is the electrical panel, and can you shut off the electricity if needed,
- where is the nearest fire extinguisher,
- is there a designated protest/demonstration area,
- is there a police presence on-site, if not, should there be,
- if food is being served, what is the protocols for food allergic reactions,
- will the meeting or event be of media interest,
- is there a designated area for media, and will they be identified as “Press”,
- is there a need for a “Green Room” or “Down Room” for speakers or VIPs,
- What is the “Plan of Action” (POA) for demonstrators or protestors,
- What is the POA for weapons,
- POA for uninvited guests, to include Posses, Tag-a-longs, Hanger-on’s,
- POA for un-attended bags or backpacks,
- POA for Severe Weather,
- POA for a Medical Emergency,
- POA for Active Shooter Event,
As a Meeting Planner, you must act as your own security consultant. Greg recommends you conduct your own Threat & Risk Assessment, looking at factors that are relevant to private and public events, such as; how many will be attending your meeting, how many VIPs will be in attendance, is this a political or religious based event, is the date of your meeting relevant from any historical perspective – such as an anniversary of a terrorist attack, and what is the location and duration of your event?
As any meeting planner will tell you, no two events are the same. Special event and meeting planning, response, and management are often case-by-case operations, and for venue managers and event organizers, this can mean revising or even rewriting the “playbook” for each event.
Even before a venue is selected, security considerations should be considered so that a suitable and safe location is chosen.
Last year a client was hosting a dinner in conjunction with a major sporting event. The guest list included many high-profile celebrities. When my firm was contacted, the venue had already been chosen, and the event was taking place in a few days. Unfortunately, they did not consider the popularity of the restaurant. It was packed and had a lengthy line of patrons waiting to get in. While a private room had been selected, it was on the second floor. There was no plan for how to discreetly get the guests in and out while avoiding delays caused by autographs and selfie seekers. Celebrities risk damaging their reputations if they ignore or refuse their fans’ requests so it created quite a scene. Had security been a focus from the start, our recommendation would have been for a different venue that could assure private, secure access, providing everyone peace of mind. Choosing a venue is just one aspect that can be positively influenced when security is considered in advance of the event.
Bottom Line – Plan for worst-case scenarios to include extraordinary crimes, violence by protestors, a terrorist attack, and natural disaster – but also be thoroughly prepared to deal with ordinary incidents, such as uninvited guests, large crowds, fights, drunkenness, or small protests.
Remember, the time to develop a security plan is not in the middle of a crisis, and your typical response time for police to arrive on scene is twelve to fifteen minutes.
Greg Shaffer is the author of “Stay Safe – Security Secrets for Today’s Dangerous World” and the founder of the Dallas-based Shaffer Security Group. Greg is internationally recognized as an expert on Active Shooter & Counter Terrorism. Greg also served 20 years as a Special Agent in the FBI, where he was an Operator on their elite “Hostage Rescue Team” (HRT) where he also was the program manager for their Close Protection Training. Greg has trained counter-terrorism teams, SWAT teams, police officers, intelligence officers and civilians across the globe in Active Shooter Response & Tactical Firearms.