❏ Consider your attendees and speakers. Will there be VIPs or high-profile delegates in attendance that may be targets of kidnappers? Do any attendees have personal situations that may present a heightened risk for the group? “We once had a situation where one of our attendees had a restraining order again her boyfriend,” recalls Susan Goldberg, CMP, principal of risk assessment consultancy Segue Consulting Inc. in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y. “Just knowing that allowed us to better evaluate the situation and prepare for a potential problem.”
❏ Consider the extent of media coverage the event will likely generate. Threats increase dramatically when the event is high-profile or highly controversial.
❏ Have a plan in place to protect corporate property. Determine if any proprietary or highly sensitive materials will be unveiled or discussed at the meeting. This can increase the likelihood of theft at the meeting.
❏ Keep attendees’ health in mind. Ask attendees to inform you of any health issues, medical conditions, food allergies, and the like prior to the meeting. Consider all the activities attendees will take part in during the event and how any health issues may factor into these plans.
❏ Check in with your convention services manager, local police, and the convention and visitors bureau about what else is going on. Find out what other groups are meeting in your hotel. Ask the CVB what activities will be going on in the city during your meeting. Find out from the police if there will there be any groups protesting in the area. All these events could affect the safety and security of your group.
❏ Meet with the hotel security director or property manager during the site inspection (without the hotel salesperson present, recommends one expert). Ask about the hotel’s emergency evacuation plan, whether staff is trained in CPR, and if there have been any problems at the property recently.
❏ If your company has a security team, ask them for advice. They may have information that can help you better prepare for and mitigate risks. Some companies actually send a security team representative on site inspections with meeting planners.
❏ Determine how you will control access to the meeting. Will the meeting rooms be locked at all times? Will participants be allowed to register for the meeting on site and what information will you collect from them?
❏ Meet with all vendors that will provide services for your event (transportation suppliers, security officers, medical staff, etc.) to ensure they have adequate experience, training, and equipment.
❏ Share security information with attendees. Provide them with emergency contact numbers, airport security tips, local customs, and some common sense reminders.
❏ Conduct emergency training. “At the end of the day, no matter how great the security plan is in print, it is only as good as the staff who will be putting it into practice,” says Werth. “Make sure your staff is trained on how they will handle each ‘what-if’ scenario, and determine who will take the leadership role if a situation occurs.”