Huntington Place Unveils Enhanced Public Safety and Security Measures to Keep Event Guests Safe

November 23, 2022

Like many major convention centers across the U.S., Huntington Place is making public safety and security a top priority. On Nov. 4, the downtown Detroit venue rolled out its enhanced public safety and security measures with an all-staff Venue Safety and Security Training offered by the International Association of Venue Managers (IAVM), which provides innovative safety and security guidelines and training to assist venues and their executive teams in managing and prioritizing the protection of all life safety and physical assets. 

“Safety is one of the top concerns for meeting planners and attendees,” said Karen Totaro, general manager for Huntington Place/ASM Global. “Combining local, state and national security efforts in a way that makes our clients feel safe and cared for will be instrumental to our future.”

IAVM’s Introduction to Venue Safety and Security training course equips leadership, event safety and security staff, guest services teams and meeting planners and organizers with the necessary know-how to effectively protect their respective facilities. Developed by seasoned event safety and security professionals, this one-day event provides participants with an action plan outline, as well as creative and innovative strategies that secure all facilities, engage front-line teams and provide the best in guest services and customer experience.

Mark Herrera, Marlon Wilson and Charles Burns

Conducted by IAVM Director of Safety and Security Mark Herrera, who oversees the organization’s Academy for Venue Safety and Security, the one-day training included all teams and leadership and focused on securing all events at the convention center. Marlon Wilson, who began his role as director of public safety at Huntington Place in October and boasts a longstanding law enforcement background, worked with Herrera to train staff on the latest safety and security protocols for the venue. Charles Burns, ASM Global vice president–chief security officer, also participated in the Nov. 4 event. 

“We are thrilled to coordinate these national programs and agencies in our local public safety protocols,” Totaro said. “With Marlon having an extensive background in local law enforcement and knowledge of our community, and Mark’s expertise in venue security, it is the right fit for our team’s efforts. Public safety is continually front and center of our guest experience in Huntington Place.” 

The training course covered the following: 

  • Training for venue frontline leadership, staff and neighboring venue security execs
  • Leadership understanding today’s challenges in leading teams and managing successful outcomes
  • Bridging generational gaps, team engagement to enhance security postures
  • What constitutes a heightened level of awareness
  • Risk factors of individuals presenting possible threat, how to identify and respond
  • Mental instability and threat ideology, facility/event vulnerability
  • Technology capabilities: weapons detection; autonomous response; hostile vehicle mitigation
  • Diffusing non-compliance
  • Meeting expectations
  • Security baselines facility/event
  • Future security trends

According to Herrera, there has been a growing demand for guidance related to security issues in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. He has conducted more than 350 training sessions for leadership and frontline teams on Behavioral Indication and Risk Mitigation through Guest Service Interjection, which is training that emphasizes developing teams capable of providing exceptional focus, performance and control in extreme situations. 

Additionally, convention centers across the country are coming out of the COVID pandemic with changed customer expectations for service delivery and environmental hygiene. Thus, public safety departments have broadened their reach to not only include crisis communications, crowd control and policing strategy, but also guest experience and customer service. 

“Facilities such as Huntington Place under the direction of General Manager Karen Totaro pride themselves on creating better experiences within the venue industry inclusive of all facilities that are more important now than ever before,” Herrera said. “Training teams to forecast and expect those unexpected challenges in the future provides them with the tools to mitigate the risks our world delivers daily.”

Adding to all of those challenges were the midterm elections, which have been the focus of increasing anxiety for voters and election officials in the U.S. With Huntington Place serving as a ballot counting center for Detroit, making sure enhanced safety and security measures were set in place for the Nov. 8 Michigan elections was crucial, so the venue’s public safety team worked with an extensive security task force in Detroit all year to prepare. 

According to Huntington Place officials, the FBI, Homeland Security, all state and local law enforcement agencies, the Michigan Secretary of State, the Detroit Department of Elections and the Downtown Detroit Partnership Security Task Force worked cooperatively as a Security Response Team and central on-site command to share information and strategies. 

“Our goal is to ensure the best security protocols are in place and always improve,” Wilson said. “What happened in the past informs our future protocols. After this election, we will look back again and put improved enhancements in place for future events.”

For those venues in the process of tightening their safety and security protocols, Huntington safety and security officials offer the following tips:

  • Train staff in security protocol and awareness
  • Continually revisit best practices with other venues
  • Continually look to future trends in safety and security
  • Collaborate with surrounding venues
  • Establish security command in venue with local, state and federal agencies with levels of threat response to activate as necessary

Huntington Place trainees

“Safety and security are such basic needs, and we as a venue operator not only want to meet that need but [also] exceed expectations,” Totaro said. “We do this to establish trust in knowing at Huntington Place the team will do all they can to keep clients, attendees and employees secure.”

Along with its Academy for Venue Safety and Security training events, IAVM provides education, resources, advocacy and certification to event industry professionals and venue managers. To learn more, 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. 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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.