Sunday, August 3, 2014

Tip of the Day: Preventing the Disruption of Int'l Conferences, Anticipate Worst, Commo Essential

January 26, 2006, 33 elderly European tourists were traveling by tour bus from the Rio de Janeiro airport to their hotel. A gunman stopped the bus and robbed the tourists of their passports, jewelry, money, cameras, and credit cards. 

If these en-mass crime victims were attending your meeting, how would YOU have safeguarded them?

Even the best conference sites in the world experience security threats...even in conventional, developed nations.

The "downside" is that the majority of international, multilateral conferences don't succeed without extensive promotion and publicity.

As most of us know that have managed successful international conferences, the logistical and security-oriented details can take upwards of months to orchestrate, which is why I generally advise that if you're planning for 100 participants four months ahead of schedule should be doable

Yet, if you're expecting upwards of 5,000 participants, a year in advance could potentially be too late in the game, depending, of course, on the complexity and nature of the threat.

In this Tip of the Day, we will offer guidance to our readers who will be managing and coordinating security arrangements in foreign venues  regardless of size.

Let me first offer a caution which I have often echoed in my 2008 book, STAYING SAFE ABROAD, and will re-assert in my completely updated book, STAYING SAFE ABROAD 2014, which will be released in October 2014. To reserve a specific number of copies of this book, please email me at:

"In recent months, regardless of where on Earth you call 'home,' our lives are filled with risk-rich challenges ranging from airline disasters, rogue governments invading peaceful nations, unexpected roadway collisions, violent crime, acts of terrorism, rockets raining down on our friends in Israel and even at home in the US a crisis on the US border that is tragically of President Obama's own making.

1. It has often been said that none of us can be an expert in everything. Consequently, I urge all of us to acknowledge goals we can successfully achieve and those we cannot by calling upon experts as needed;

2. Very early on, build into your planning schedule the production of an Event Security Guide that strategically omits any reference to guest-rooms of participants;

3. First and foremost, the security of all participants should be paramount in the design and production of the Event Security Guide

4. Encourage all participants to do the following:

a. Register their itinerary through their appropriate foreign affairs agency;

b. Subscribe to international medical treatment and medical evacuation insurance coverage that includes the repatriation of participant remains to their home country if they die while abroad; and

c. Urge that all participants transporting electronic gadgets abroad insure their possessions through:;

5. Establish a 24-7 Control Room at the hotel center at which the majority of guests are staying;

6. Contingent upon the security threat, and budget permitting, consider providing all participants an inexpensive mobile phone that THEY SIGN FOR that automatically connects them with the 24/7 Control Room;

7. The first order of business is to assign a respected independent threat assessment firm with designing a broad-based threat analysis of every conceivable perspective, including special interest groups that may target the meeting venue;

8. Engage professional security advisers to discuss the proposed meeting/conference site, political forecasting, history of incidents against attendees or confer with international security representatives, chambers of commerce, electronic badges, communications (voice and data)  and business organizations;

9. Consult with appropriate meeting planners, hotel and conference site managers, hotel security managers, diplomatic missions, tourist bureaus, chambers of commerce, and local public safety agencies to coordinate that everyone is safeguarded, regardless of the venue;

10. Document how they view the threat, and ask for suggestions on how to reduce attendee risk. Where necessary, request traffic controls or other police assistance near the meeting site;

11. Confer with airport security officials, and make arrangements that will ease customs clearance and getting passengers and luggage separately to and from the conference site;

12. Arrange for a vehicle dedicated to the transportation of luggage including the tagging of bags by guest name, luggage count and hotel room #;

13. Arrange for airport expediters to assist attendees in clearing customs, airport formalities and transporting them promptly to the meeting site;

14. If the conference site is in a critical or high-threat location, hire a reputable security firm to transport attendees, and provide reputable, licensed and armed security escort as needed;

15. Obtain the names of reputable transportation companies from embassies, visitor’s bureau, chambers of commerce and hotel officials to support the transportation of attendees;

16. NEVER permit attendees to hire their own transportation, as too much can go wrong;

17. As appropriate, employ local guards or off-duty police officers, armed contingent upon the threat, to provide security for meeting and reception areas;

18. Ensure that hotel staff and security personnel and designated security representatives by name for the meeting are reachable 24/7 by cell phone. All contact numbers should be published in Event Security Guide;

19. As necessary, hire reputable, vetted translators (for Event Security Guide) and interpreters to assist in making security arrangements with local police. This eliminates misunderstandings;

20. In the case of large numbers of attendees (five or more) from the same organization, recommend that they fly on different flights, and ensure that all airlines have good safety records. Check the below link:

21. Depending upon the threat to participants and the subject, sensitivity, and size of the meeting, all assignees should be issued identification cards through a reputable vendor;

22. Vett the preponderance of participants through one or two reputable embassies that have the resources to conduct "political traces" for all security guards and off-duty police used at the event;
23. Use off-duty police officers to check participant identification cards and competently operate walk-through magnetometers at all access points to the conference venue;

24. Do not use the organization’s name when making airline reservations. This draws attention to the passengers’ affiliation. Omit job titles on hotel preregistration. Obtain the names of reputable transportation companies from embassies, visitor’s bureau, chambers of commerce, and hotel officials to support the transportation of attendees;

25. As necessary, hire a reliable, vetted interpreter to assist in making security arrangements with local police;

26. Maintain a 24/7 control room in the hotel from which emergencies can be managed for the meeting’s participants;

27. Locate the best medical facilities and pharmacies available for emergencies. Determine whether the hotel has an on-call physician and whether participants have serious medical conditions;

28. Instruct hotels, restaurants, and transportation companies to avoid using the an organization’s name in public announcements or on reader boards. Use an innocuous acronym to identify the organization at certain events and to mark vans/buses for use by attendees;

29. Include a one-page handout in the Event Security Guide entitled "Security Advice on How to NOT Become a Crime Victim." This handout  should include safe and unsafe areas for walking and jogging, protection of valuables, areas frequented by criminals, and emergency phone numbers;

30. Consult with hotel officials to determine the quality of fire safety features. Ideally, a site should have a sprinkler system, an automatic fire detection system, external emergency stairwells, and a fire station within five minutes of the site, although these may not always be available; and

31. Determine the scope of press converge you want for the meeting, if any. If you do not set the ground rules in advance, the press may arrive unannounced. If you do not want publicity, ensure that the hotel does NOT list the meeting on the daily meeting marquee.