Security Planning for Special Events: A Q&A with Jeff O’Hara

Violent crime, terror attacks, natural disasters. A sense of danger is putting a chill on special events. By adding more urgency to the jobs of special event professionals. Many of the big DMCs profiled in our latest “25 Top DMCs” tell us that they have been putting greater focus on security planning. A topic to be covered in the next issue of Special Events.

For starters, here is a Q&A with Jeff O’Hara, CMP, DMCP, president of AlliedPRA New Orleans, on the tactics he takes to keep guests safe and happy at events in the Big Easy:

SPECIAL EVENTS: Are more clients raising the issue of security to you than they were five years ago?
Jeff O’Hara: Yes.

To be sure, the vast majority of concerns and tactics are around intellectual property protection, especially in technology, pharma and financial. With that said, given the recent events in Europe, we have started to hear concerns from our clients in the recent months and have shared our emergency plans more frequently than in the past.

SE: Do you find that most clients today are security-conscious, or do you have to stress security?

JOH: Clients are definitely security-conscious. It is a collaborative discussion we have in the logistics phase of event implementation. Sometimes we have to nudge them along–see nametags below as a frequent example–but most big organizations have this as part of their standard review.

Something as simple as requiring nametags for admittance to off-site events is a strong security step in the current environment. Sure, attendees find it a pain and planners are reluctant to ruffle feathers with enforcement–but a terrorist is unlikely to know to counterfeit a credential to gain access to the target. Nor is a common thief who poses a different type of security threat.

SE: How have you developed your approach to security and risk management: professional experience, consulting with security experts, other?
In New Orleans, we regularly host international large-scale events–Super Bowls, Final 4, BCS Championships, Mardi Gras, Jazz Festival, NBA All-Star Games. Not to mention just normal nights in the French Quarter. As a result, the city has developed quite an expertise in security of large crowds. Therefore wrapped in the velvet glove of being welcoming.

The hospitality community has regular strategy meetings with the New Orleans Police Department. U.S. Homeland Security, fire and paramedics to coordinate ongoing and special event plans. We are able to leverage those relationships to assist in our plans. Further, we commonly use off-duty police detail for traffic control and event security. Officers are highly trained in recognizing threats in large crowds, so we have their expertise at our service.

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