In January, I attended a meeting in Las Vegas and was surprised by the elevated level of security. McCarran International Airport was buzzing with activity, our taxi was searched at the entrance to one of the Strip's major resorts, and everyone was talking about the influx of the Secret Service and the National Guard the week before, over the New Year's holiday. On the news, I saw reports that the hotels had been asked to hand over their guest registers to government officials.

Why, then, do so few planners give any thought to security and contingency planning?

That used to be the case with Vickie Kress, director of user conference services, Softbrands, Castle Valley, Utah — but not any more. As a result of a session she attended at MPI's Professional Education Conference in January, Kress has decided to alter her site inspections to include more questions about overall safety and security at the destination. The session “scared the daylights out of me,” she says. “It's just been luck that nothing has happened so far!”

When the Department of Homeland Security raises the alert level, should you be doing things differently? Certainly, you need to communicate precautions to attendees. But there are also clauses you can build into your contract to protect yourself if you have to cancel. For more, turn to page 13. And at the airports, what can your travelers expect these days? There's plenty of advice you can give attendees to help make their flights smoother. See “Air Travel: Grounding the Hassle Factor,” on page 16. Finally, one Homeland Security development that's sure to have an impact on your meetings is the US-VISIT program, which requires visitors from abroad (other than those from 28 “visa waiver countries”) to be fingerprinted and photographed — and will eventually require the same for departures. For more, see the article on page 14.

The first step you can take to be proactive about meeting security is to arm yourself with information. We hope this issue helps.

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