Be Prepared: Creating Your Meeting and Event Security Plan

October 24, 2017

It goes without saying that meeting security is at the top of everyone’s minds right now. After the recent incident in Las Vegas, planners need to make sure that they – and their venues – are as prepared as possible to handle any emergency that may take place.

The Exhibitions and Meetings Safety and Security Initiative (EMSSI) was launched in 2016 by the International Association of Venue Managers (IAVM), the International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE) and the Exhibition Services & Contractors Association (ESCA).

EMSSI’s mission is to protect the $283 billion U.S. meetings industry and the millions of people who attend meetings, conventions and exhibitions. Its supporters, which include more than 60 leading industry associations, hope to do this through the establishment of national guidelines for convention centers and related venues around the U.S., as well as alignment with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Safety Act office.

“We live in a very dynamic threat environment,” Mark Herrera, director of education for IAVM, said during a recent webinar sponsored by Destinations International and “It’s critical that we all come together to find ways to mitigate the risks.”

Planners should work with their venues and suppliers to ensure there are safety and security protocols in place, and that everyone is well educated on how security measures will be implemented. Its vital for planners to be aware of the process and procedures and have a good understanding of credentialing and access control measures.

Best practices for ensuring an event security plan include:

  • Perform a risk assessment – always include a security representative in meetings
  • Site evaluation, parking, and security – prepare a checklist of security questions
  • Ask for evacuation plans in case of emergency
  • Crowd management – crowd types and guard force requirements
  • Know the location of all emergency exits
  • Access plan for EMS and first responders
  • Contingency plans in case of bomb threats or power outages
  • Medical service plan – addressing injuries and illness, and defining a staging area

According to John Cychol, vice president of meeting sales at the Fort Worth Convention and Visitors Bureau, CVBs can add value for planners concerned about meeting security. He stressed that each destination should have its own crisis management and communication plan, but added that the common denominator is the knowledge and relationships that each CVB already has in place.

“(CVBs) are the voice of the industry for meetings, conventions, events and trade shows in each of our communities and we are the best resources for the meeting professionals,” Cychol said.

He continued, “We serve as a liaison and a conduit – we will know what is going on and can provide customers with timely communications that they can then share with their attendees,”

Examples of the types of question planners should ask event venues include:

  • What type of training has the venue/supplier’s staff received and how recently?
  • Has a threat and vulnerability assessment been performed?
  • Who is responsible for crowd control and how will it be implemented?
  • Is there a drone policy in place and what is the procedure?
  • Is the venue Safety Act certified?
  • What type of access control measures are required, especially for high in-and-out traffic such as is common with general service contractors?
  • What is the perimeter security, and how does it work for inbound and outbound freight and cargo?
  • How often do you invite law enforcement and EMS to your venue to ensure a high level of familiarity in the event of an emergency?
  • Who is responsible for ensuring each piece of the plan is executed?

As new threats emerge, the best thing that planners, venues and suppliers can do is work more closely together to maintain the highest possible safety and security standards.

The initial phases of EMSSI are focused on convention centers but are being expanded to include hotels and other types of meeting venues. The American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) has recently become more involved in moving the initiative forward.

“(EMSSI) is the industry’s voice - it is developed for the industry by the industry,” said David DuBois, president and CEO of IAEE. “Together we can make our industry safer,”

To learn more about EMMSI, go HERE.


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Partner Voices
Less than six months ago, Lisa Messina joined the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) as the first-ever chief sales officer after leading the sales team at Caesars Entertainment. A 12-year Las Vegas resident, Messina is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and serves on MPI International’s board of directors. TSNN had a chance to catch up with this dynamic leader and talk to her about her vision for the new role, current shifts in the trade show industry, creating more diversity and equity within the organization, and advice to future female leaders. Lisa Messina, Chief Sales Officer, LVCVA With Las Vegas becoming The Greatest Arena on EarthTM, what are some of the things you’re most excited about in your role? Our team was at The Big Game’s handoff ceremony earlier this month, and I couldn’t help but think, “We’re going to crush it next year!”  These high-profile events and venues not only drive excitement, but also provide unmatched opportunities for event planners. Allegiant Stadium hosts events from 10 to 65,000 people and offers on-field experiences. Formula 1 Grand Prix will take place in Las Vegas in November, after the year-one F1 race, the four-story paddock building will be available for buyouts and will also offer daily ride-along experiences that will be available for groups. And, of course, the MSG Sphere officially announced that it will open in September, ahead of schedule, with a U2 residency. It’s going to be the most technologically advanced venue as far as lighting, sound, feel, and even scent, and it will be available for buyouts and next-level sponsorships inside and outside. There’s no ceiling to what you can do when you’re doing events in Las Vegas.  Allegiant Stadium As the trade show and convention business returns to the pre-pandemic levels, what shifts are you noticing and how do you think they will impact the industry going forward? Our trade show organizers are very focused on driving customer experience. Most of our organizers are reporting stronger exhibitor numbers and increased numbers of new exhibitors, with trade shows proving to be almost or above 2019 levels. Now our organizers are really doubling down on driving attendance and focusing on the data to provide that individualized, customized experience to help attendees meet their goals and get the best value. Some companies continue to be cautiously optimistic with their organizational spend when it comes to sending attendees, but I think it will continue to improve. As the U.S. Travel Association makes more progress on the U.S. visa situation, we also expect a growing influx of international attendees. What are some innovative ways the LVCVA helps trade show and convention organizers deliver the most value for their events? We focus on customer experience in the same way that trade show organizers are thinking about it. We got rave reviews with the West Hall Expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), so over the next two years, we will be renovating the North and the Central halls, which will include not just the same look and feel, but also the digital experiences that can be leveraged for branding and sponsorship opportunities.  Vegas Loop, the underground transportation system designed by The Boring Company, is also a way we have enhanced the customer experience. Vegas Loop at the LVCC has transported more than 900,000 convention attendees across the campus since its 2021 launch. Last summer, Resorts World and The Boring Company opened the first resort stop at the Resorts World Las Vegas , with plans to expand throughout the resort corridor, including downtown Las Vegas, Allegiant Stadium and Harry Reid International Airport. The LVCVA also purchased the Las Vegas Monorail in 2020, the 3.9-mile-long elevated transportation system that connects eight resorts directly to the convention center campus. This is the only rail system in the world that integrates fares directly into show badges and registration. For trade show organizers, these transportation options mean saving time, money and effort when it comes to moving groups from the hotels to LVCC and around the city. Also, the more we can focus on building the infrastructure around the convention center, the more it supports the customer experience and ultimately supports our trade show organizers. Scheduled to debut in Q4, Fontainebleau Las Vegas will offer 3,700 hotel rooms and 550,000 square feet of meeting and convention space next to LVCC.  What are some of the plans for advancing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) within your organization? We’re currently partnering with instead of working with a leading consulting firm, to lay the foundation and create a solid DEI plan and be the leader when it comes to DEI initiatives. The heart of that journey with the consulting firm is also talking to our customers about their strategic approaches to DEI and driving innovation in this space.  What are your favorite ways to recharge? My husband and I have an RV and we’re outdoorsy people. So, while we have over 150,000 world-class hotel rooms and renowned restaurants right outside our doorstep, one of my favorite things to do is get out to Red Rock Canyon, the Valley of Fire, and Lake Mead. Five of the top national parks are within a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, so there’s a lot you can do. We love balancing the energy of Las Vegas with nature, and we’re noticing that a lot of attendees add activities off the Strip when they come here.  Valley of Fire What advice would you give to women following leadership paths in destination marketing? I think it’s about being laser-focused on what you want to accomplish; building a team around you that lifts you and helps you achieve your goals; and being humble and realizing that you do it as a group. No one gets this done alone. Thankfully, there are a lot of women in leadership in this organization, in our customers’ organizations, and in this city that we can be really proud of. We’re a formidable force that is making things happen.   This interview has been edited and condensed. This article is exclusively sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. For more information, visit HERE.