Despite the best intentions not to let terrorism limit their lives, edgy guests need reassurance before they can enjoy special events. For help, Special Events Magazine turned to security expert Gary Moses. Formerly director of special events operations for Pinkerton Security, Moses is now an independent consultant based in Los Angeles. He has handled security for events including the Academy and Emmy awards.
Special Events Magazine: In the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, what security questions are your clients posing to you?
Gary Moses: Right now they are focusing on two things: Could there be an incident that directly affects the event by the action of individuals, or is there a chemical [attack] or biohazard that could occur?
The person planning the event has to examine a lot of questions. What is the subject of the event: Political? Religious? Entertainment? Corporate? Is the event high- or low-profile? Are the speakers coming in public or government officials? They can pose more risk. The planner also must consider attendance: Is the event for 200 people or 1,000?
Before Sept. 11, questions about security were the last ones asked. Now security is the first question.
Q: Has the issue of protecting guests and clients at special events changed since Sept. 11, or are we dealing with the same security issues we were before?
A: We are still dealing with the same security issues, but they are more intensified. We have always been concerned with people disrupting an event. The new twist in this is now people will start worrying if an event is something that a terrorist cell or group would look at disrupting to make a political statement for news value.
Q: Are you giving new recommendations on event venues? Should planners avoid iconic buildings, big cities, skyscrapers?
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. What is the ability of guests to arrive at the venue? Is the venue good when it comes to security? Does it have an airflow system that someone could get to? If so, then what is the venue doing to secure the airflow system so it cannot be tampered with?
Q: Do you see a difference in security for social versus corporate events?
A: I really don't think that wedding planners have to worry. Social events are something that [instigators] aren't going to look at. Instead, it's public and corporate events, and those private events with lots of pre-event publicity.
Q: Have you changed your recommendations on the deployment of security officers, such as uniformed versus plainclothes?
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 just allows people to understand there are both types of officers.
Q: What are your tips for making guests feel safe?
A: Start at the very beginning, with the invitation. State that security will be intensive to ensure a safe and secure environment for everybody. Then if you receive follow-up calls, explain that you recognize what is going on and are taking it all into account. But do not give details about your security arrangements to anyone, even your client. Be especially careful about callers claiming to be part of your client's organization.
Once the guests start arriving, get people credentialed right away. A digital image of each guest is not that expensive to do. But it gives everyone a feeling that everything is OK.
Q: What is the most important step that event planners can take?
A: Before the event, make contact with a security professional whom they trust. Have that person look over the event plans and the venue and come up with security proposals for the event.
Gary Moses can be reached at 818/879-8760.