by Alex Hannaford
Chris Hagon, a former royalty protection officer with London's Metropolitan Police Service, is now a managing partner with the IMG Group, a global security firm based in Florida. He says the key to establishing good security is to look at barriers.
"We introduce preventive measures, which you have to get through as you get closer to the target," he says. "When I was working for the royal family we had an outer ring of police controlling access to the location, but then there are other steps in between: searching people, looking at bags—and all of those are different barriers that separate the threat from the action."
Hagon says you can apply that same principle to everything—from executive protection to meetings. For security to be effective, organizers need to think through all possible contingencies.
"And this requires an understanding of all the threats there could be," he says. "If you don't construct that in your mind, you can't come up with preventive measures."
It's imperative to conduct a thorough risk assessment. Are there threats against the meeting itself, the topic being discussed or the executives attending? If so, you need to consider additional measures to counter those perceived threats, Hagon says.
"Some years ago I was asked to go to a function with [Princess] Diana and [Prince] Charles at the Astoria theater in London. They were going to see a concert by Duran Duran and the Dire Straits," he says. "I went to the venue two days before and got the local police to seal off the place. I got dogs in and did a thorough search. I found nothing. But what I discovered later on from the security services was that an informant had told them that the IRA had intended to place an explosive device at that concert. So there's an example of actually employing proper preventive measures even though there was no additional definitive threat. We took steps. And only in retrospect did we discover it worked."
Hagon says good security is common sense.
"You interview people taking part in the meeting, get to the bottom of any issues that could be worrying them and speak to the CEO," he says. "What does he or she know that might be a danger to the company or to individuals? Are there any unpleasant lawsuits? Have there been any demonstrations because of something the company is doing? The more you analyze the meeting, what it's about and who's attending, the more solutions there are."
Hagon says security must be integrated into the overall planning of a meeting from the outset.
"It may be a minor issue or it may be a major issue that threatens people's lives," he says. "But if you bear in mind the security component when you begin to plan the meeting, it'll mitigate the risk."
Conduct a risk assessment, hire a security firm, communicate with members or delegates and speak to local law enforcement. Good intelligence ahead of time is vital, and local law enforcement could be the best source.
"In America, local police departments usually have enough resources to go straight in and deal with any situation that arises," he says. "They don't want this thing to drag on longer than it should. So it's very useful to involve local police from the outset."
Hagon also recommends having a good medical plan for appropriate treatment/evacuation, as well as providing security awareness tips for delegates at the meeting—are there any "no go" zones? If someone's in trouble, whom should they call?
Please read the full article about security and contingency planning for destinations—including Dallas and Cologne, Germany—in the September issue of The Meeting Professional and a lot of other interessting articles in our MPI Blog on www.mpiweb.org.