With each passing year, Stephen Catt, EdD (MPI Pittsburgh Chapter), ramps up security at Butler County Community College, where he is director of events and grant management.
The bucolic suburban campus in the Greater Pittsburgh area frequently hosts events ranging from theatrical performances to a regional workshop for librarians. To make sure the school is prepared for potentially violent incidents, campus police were trained to handle active shooter strategies about two years ago and received training in using assault rifles. “If the worst-case scenario did happen on our campus they could respond quickly and in a professional way, just like any well trained police force,” Catt says.
The college of about 3,000 students has also changed all of the locks on the doors to its classrooms and meeting rooms so that they can be locked from the inside, and assigned individual employees the role of building monitors so that they can lock the exterior doors to a building so no one can enter. The college also sets aside time twice each year for professional education of the staff and faculty on what to do if there is an active shooter on campus, and has invited an FBI agent to address the group on protecting themselves and others.
“We all acknowledged this is the last thing we want to think about or talk about,” Catt says. Nonetheless, he notes, the administration knows it needs to be proactive—and its approach has caught on so much that other community colleges have asked for advice on how to implement similar programs.
Concerns such as those at Butler County Community College echoed throughout MPI’s most recent Meetings Outlook survey. At a time when headlines are filled with stories of terrorism, turbulent political rallies, protests turned violent and the threat of the Zika virus, many meeting professionals are giving safety and security top priority in their spending. “The No. 1 thing they are budgeting for in 2017 is safety and security,” says Bill Voegeli (MPI Georgia Chapter), president of Association Insights, the Atlanta-area research firm that conducts the survey.
Though safety and security barely made the list of current trends in the survey, meeting professionals’ actions told another story. Among respondents, 15 percent said they had increased threat preparedness and response awareness, 14 percent said security had influenced the selection of a destination or location and 13 percent said they were coming up with more detailed, documented plans. Another 13 percent said they were providing more employee training.
The research found that many meeting professionals are taking other steps as well, such as the following:
1) Better communications with attendees regarding security issues and emergency response are being developed
2) More onsite security personnel are being employed
3) More event insurance is being purchased
4) Vendor selection is being influenced by vendor reputation and hiring standards
5) Technology is being vetted for cyber security credentials.
For more detailed information please download the full report.
Written by Blair Potter, Managing editor for The Meeting Professional