A Critical Event Management Company

Enhancing Traditional Security Operations with Technology

  Van Bethea

I recently managed a complex event security operation for one of our corporate clients in a large U.S. metropolitan city. In preparing for the 2,000 company attendees that included high ranking executives and VIPs from around the world, the event planners had bought out a 25-story historic hotel, securing the massive lobby area, seven floors of meeting rooms, ballrooms and conference areas for a week.

Corporate event planners and a forty-five person support staff were responsible for facilitating logistics, scheduling the various conference sessions and arranging for the housing and catering needs of all attendees. My mission and responsibilities were to ensure personnel/attendee safety, protect assets, secure locations and develop event security response and risk mitigation strategies.

A key component of the FocusPoint risk mitigation strategy on these types of events is to conduct pre-event advance operations. Advance operations include those tasks associated with evaluating the venue (in this case, the entire hotel) to mitigate risk potential, and develop plans to address any security issues including threats to participants, theft of client property, emergency evacuation and medical support should an incident occur.

One sub-task of the advance operation was to identify vulnerable access points that would require security presence for access/credential monitoring. Additional security resources were also necessary to ensure that high-value and classified intellectual property displayed in all the conference rooms were secure.

The responsibility for the event security manager is to ensure that adequate resources are properly deployed to cover any risk contingency within an approved budget. In most cases, this would mean assigning a security guard or protection agent to vulnerable entry points and roving agents for credential monitoring. The cost for these resources can quickly become significant and challenging when dealing with tight security budgets.

Concerning the hotel event I mentioned above, traditional security staffing projections called for a minimum of 35 security/protective services agents covering a minimum of 12 hours per day. Considering the support need for five days of coverage, the cost for security personnel quickly exceeded $100,000.

During the course of my law enforcement and private sector security management career, I have continually sought to utilize technology to complement efficiencies and costs for traditional solutions. One solution that was implemented during the event was the use of RFID technology. While RFID tags are already being used for supply chain management, new techniques are continually being applied to support traditional security operations in a variety of ways.

To reduce security costs, RFID tags were embedded into event attendee credentials. Portable RFID readers were installed at all venue access doors, and small, mobile RFID antennas were positioned in all common areas to monitor and confirm that only credentialed guests were present. All attendees, VIPs, event staff and security personnel, were issued their assigned credentials upon arrival and check-in at the hotel with the instruction to wear their credentials at all times.

The RFID equipment immediately transmitted information to the command center whenever any individual not wearing proper credentials accessed the area or entered an access point. This information was then relayed via radio to our security response personnel assigned as rovers within each venue area. The individual was then escorted to the credentialing/check-in booth staffed by company event personnel to resolve the issue. Portable CCTV cameras also covered all access points and monitoring areas to document activities.

The effectiveness of the blended technology and traditional staffing model for this event resulted in greater efficiencies to quickly identify and resolve instances of non-credentialed persons within the venue and less intrusive contacts with event attendees. Also, during pre-event set-up activities, an expensive display device containing proprietary and sensitive information went missing from one of the exhibit areas before the physical security team was in place. A check of RFID monitoring records found that an outside vendor had mistakenly placed the device in a packing crate that was moved into the storage area. This resulted in a quick resolution to a potentially time-consuming investigation.

By incorporating cost-effective RFID technology into traditional security posting practices, I was able to reduce the number of security personnel needed and working hours by 68%, thereby generating substantial cost savings for our client. Properly implemented, the benefits of technologies blended with traditional security functions can greatly improve mission objectives and provide economic incentives in our industry space.