Nobody has been hurt in a terrorist attack on a convention center — not yet, anyway. And if the Safety and Security Task Force organized by the International Association of Assembly Managers (www.iaam.org) succeeds in its assignment, no one will be.

The membership of IAAM consists of those who manufacture and work with arenas, amphitheaters, stadiums, convention centers, performing arts centers, and other facilities. “As an industry, we have a creative, conscientious group,” says Lionel Dubay, president of IAAM and director of the Stephen C. O'Connell Center in Gainesville, Fla. “We need to gather together what they are all doing right,” he says. Each person on the task force is researching his or her peer groups about steps taken to improve security processes since September 11. Their findings will be consolidated into best practices white papers. IAAM expected publication of the first in January, with more to follow before its annual conference in July.

With September 11 now being seen in the rearview mirror, Dubay was asked whether his industry over-reacted to the threat of terrorism or if it was simply taking steps that were overdue. “Safety and security have always been of importance to our membership,” he says. “When you see something of the nature of what happened on September 11, it bodes well for our industry and membership that we reacted in the way we did.”

Few facilities are designed with cookie-cutter plans, so the belief is that managers can learn a great deal from one another's experiences. “By pooling together our best practices,” Dubay says, “we'll have them as a benchmark. That isn't in existence in the industry right now. It lets us look at IAAM and nonmembers. We'll be able to look at it and say, ‘Where am I? Am I average? Am I above average?’”

Safety and security benchmarks will also be handy as new facilities are built or as managers move from one facility to another, or from one size facility to a larger one. “This will provide the venue manager with a good resource,” Dubay says. “I think it will also make our association stronger and provide a tremendous educational resource in the industry.”

In addition to white papers, the task force expects to apply its findings to the development of new training modules for different venue types. “We already have a crowd management video in place. But we needed to focus on the different venue types; safety and security at performing arts centers is just as important as at stadiums,” Dubay says.