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Global Events and Conflicts Impact Security at Trade Shows and Events; Here’s What You Can Do

Maddy Ryley, Managing Editor
Global Events and Conflicts Impact Security at Trade Shows and Events; Here’s What You Can Do

CHICAGO — Safeguarding events and security strategy is an ever-evolving industry, especially during times of global and domestic conflict and tension.

Today, there is a heightened level of risk around the work, most notably the Israel-Hamas war, Russia’s war in Ukraine, which can put venues and large-scale events at risk. Most recently explosives at a Jehovah’s Witness prayer meeting at a convention center killed at least three people in India.

On Nov. 7, there was a Worldwide Caution alert update from the U.S. State Department due to increased tensions in different places around the world, and the potential for demonstrations, violent actions and terrorism against U.S. citizens and interests. The department advises that citizens be especially alert in locations that are frequented by tourists.

Keeping Events Safe and Secure

As the potential dangers change, trade show management can be prepared to handle any crisis with ongoing assessments and training.

Of course, security is a major aspect of today’s modern trade show and organizers do stay informed about global events and their potential impacts on event security. Still, TSE reached out to get an update on such planning, with a keen eye on a raised level of threat of terrorism inherent to the U.S. when there is unrest in the Middle East.

“The key is flexibility, adaptability and proactive planning,” said Mark Herrera, Director of Safety and Security at the International Association of Venue Managers (IAVM). “It’s critical to consult with security experts, law enforcement and agencies to provide guidance.”

Herrera cautioned, “If we think based on what happened in Israel that we haven’t has an infiltration of potential terrorists come to the U.S., then we are wearing blinders. We need to know there’s a high level of risk because of the current foreign wars, and we must not become complacent in our event security preparedness.”

When there is a heightened risk of terrorism, political instability, or international conflicts, Herrera said event organizers may need to implement more stringent security measures, which could include increased bag checks, metal detectors, and security personnel. 

He emphasized that crowd control measures are one of the most important to prepare as disorderly behavior and protests can escalate into confrontations that place those around in danger. It also includes preparing to handle situations of people trying to access authorized and restricted areas. It’s important to designate specific areas for different activities to control the flow of people.

Herrera also said that hackers are targeting event technology, and their data breaches disrupt digital services, which impacts event security and operations.

“If facilities don’t have a good plan on cyber to physical convergence, that could potentially be a concern for all facilities,” Herrera said. “Sometimes we don’t think about cybersecurity until a facility, organization or event is held for ransom, but cyberattacks can give the threat actors access to physical security measures. It also provides them with information, like potential credentialing leading to falsifying identification so they can access an event.”  

Careful planning, collaboration and full buy-in by show organizers, security teams, venue staff and local, state and federal law enforcement is necessary to conduct thorough risk assessments, put effective crisis communications plans in place and make needed adjustments before the event takes place. By collaborating and coordinating with all those involved, the team can develop security plans that outline procedures, protocols and resources that are more comprehensive and effective than a single individual could.

“Your venue management needs to be sure all emergency evacuation routes are well-marked and accessible,” Herrera said. “Utilize your technology and surveillance equipment as well, because that works hand-in-hand with the implementation of all security plans.”

When it comes to preparing for the unexpected, Herrera advises people to play the what if game, and to find three different responses to each imagined scenario. By walking through the possible scenarios that could happen at an event, the psychological impact of mental preparation helps to ensure someone has a safe and fast reaction to any danger.

“Your attendees and employees suffer a disruption in their decision-making ability if they never expected a threatening environment or occurrence. They get caught on their heels, and that creates hesitation,” Herrera said. “It all boils down to your staff and team training.”

Travel Safety Resources

Since the terrorist attacks on the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001, security measures going through checkpoints at airports have been heightened. Herrera said that the TSA’s security measures are good and thorough, but technology is only as good as the user and breaches can happen, which is why everyone should place value on training and reinforcing that training. He advised that the best practice is to understand behavioral patterns and baselines, and train teams to identify anomalous behavior rather than solely relying on the much-needed technology. 

“TSA is operating at a heightened level of security as a result of world events and the current threat environment. TSA always operates at a high level of security and constant state of vigilance, and the agency maintains a risk-based, intelligence-driven approach that includes multiple layers of security, both seen and unseen. TSA and DHS are in close and ongoing touch with all of our partners and will continue to monitor the situation and may adjust security postures as (or when) necessary,” a TSA spokesperson said.

When it comes to international travel, trade show organizers can encourage their teams and communities to check out resources to get the latest updates, like the U.S. Department of State — Bureau of Consular Affairs’ Travel Advisories and the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program.

Reach Mark Herrera at mark.herrera@iavm.org

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