As former director of special events operations for Pinkerton Security, Gary Moses masterminded security operations for the Emmy and Oscar awards. He is now an independent consultant based in Los Angeles. Lisa Hurley, editor of CMI's sister publication Special Events, recently spoke with him there.
Q: What security questions are your clients asking?
A: They are focusing on two things: Could individuals create an incident that directly affects the event, or could a chemical or biohazard occur? The planner has to examine a lot. What is the subject of the event: political? entertainment? corporate? Is the event high-profile? Are the speakers in the public eye or government officials? They can pose more risk. The planner also must consider attendance: Is the event for 200 people or 1,000? Before September 11, questions about security were the last ones asked. Now, they're the first.
Q: Are we dealing with new security issues?
A: We're still dealing with the same issues, but they are more intensified. We have always been concerned with people disrupting an event. The twist is people will worry if an event is something that terrorists would look at disrupting to make a political statement for news value.
Q: Should planners avoid iconic buildings, big cities, skyscrapers as venues?
A: No. But I strongly suggest that the event planner look at the location — even if it's been used a dozen times in the past — in a different way. For example, what is the ability of guests to arrive at the venue? Is the venue good when it comes to security?
Q: Is there a difference in security for social versus corporate events?
A: They [Instigators] aren't going to look at social events. Instead, it will be public and corporate events and those private events that have lots of pre-event publicity.
Q: Have you changed your recommendations about the deployment of security officers?
A: Uniformed security officers at entrances and exits give people a feeling that there is security on-site. I don't see a problem with giving plainclothes officers a credential or lapel pin saying they are security. It allows people to understand that there are both types of officers.
Q: How do you make guests feel safe?
A: Start with the invitation. State that security will be intense to ensure a secure environment. But never reveal details about your security arrangements to anyone. As soon as guests arrive, get people credentialed. A digital image of each guest is not that expensive. But it gives everyone a feeling that everything is OK.
Q: What is the most important step that planners can take?
A: Before the event, [planners should] contact a security professional whom they trust. Have that professional review the event plans and the venue and develop security proposals.
Gary Moses can be reached at (818) 879-8760.