CIC Blog

Is Your Organization Prepared for a Threat at Your Meeting or Event?

Nov 15, 2016
By Kasey Connors 
Director of Marketing, CIC

As acts of terrorism, cyber security and violence are becoming common place in the world there is an increased need for having an emergency plan for your meetings and events. How can you adequately prepare your team, organization, stakeholders and members to reduce threats? 

This past September, the Convention Industry Council (CIC) held the CMP Conclave at the Hilton Baltimore located next to the Orioles Baseball Stadium.  The weekend of Conclave was a home game series – bringing in tens of thousands of tourists. The meeting spot for an evacuation was at the statue next to the stadium. CIC had to imagine and plan for a possible security risk, and plan for how they would get 500 attendees to the statues at the stadium if there were a terrorist event at the stadium during a game with over 10,000 other people in attendance.

The CIC has had the opportunity to learn from Jonathan Wackcrow, Executive Director of Risk Assistance Network + Exchange (RANE), who spoke at both the CMP Conclave and at a recent CIC Council Meeting of the member organizations, outlining the evolving security landscape and sharing his insights on how to prepare your organizations and events. 

So how can you stop a threat? According to Wackrow, “It can’t be done, actually. You can’t reduce a threat. You can’t stop a threat. You can mitigate risk which is the measured impact, interruption, loss, damage, or destruction of an asset by a threat by exploiting a vulnerability.” Wackrow also explains that vulnerability is an area of weakness. When thinking about events or meetings you first need to think about the event itself as an asset that can be assigned a value both tangible and intangible.

Some words of advice that Wackrow emphasizes are that when planning an event, encourage your planning staff and leadership to examine your vulnerabilities, deficiencies, and gaps.  A threat is going to focus in on those weaknesses and vulnerabilities, and a threat is an uncontrollable action. So what constitutes a threat? For example, a hurricane is a threat. There is nothing you can do to stop a hurricane; it is going to cause damage, interruption, and destruction. An active shooter is also a threat you can’t stop, but you can prepare and make sure to be aware of the vulnerabilities or the very same “soft targets” the intruders are looking for. 

Intruders(threats) are constantly scanning the environment to exploit vulnerabilities and weaknesses. They’re looking for a quick entry into a location, someplace where they can go in and cause great harm, which is those soft targets. 

So as an organization, where do you start? Wackrow details that the first and foremost thing you need to do is to establish an emergency action contingency plan that defines in detail what you and your organization will do if there’s an emergency. There are three key phases or situations that you need to include in your plan; (1) a crisis, (2) a medical situation, and (3) a relocation situation. Once you have a basic approach for your plan, you will need to understand your venue or host facilities plan’s as well. Most hotels and convention spaces want to move all civilians to the public areas as fast as possible to move them quickly away from the harm. You need to know how the venue plans to evacuate and how to communicate with your attendees. What if there is a loss of power, electricity, jammed phone service? 

Wackrow suggests meeting planners engage with the onsite security during the site visit. Planners are meeting with all the key personnel, catering, AV, customer service, why not add the security staff? Planners should ask and expect to be able to review the security protocols and have access to the venues necessary plans. While some hotels do not share all of the details of their plan as part of their internal protocols, you should at least provide the basics of evacuations plans, closest hospitals, etc. Hotel/venue security can also provide many resources to a planner in advance such as the area crime statistics, the rate of incidents, and if there have been any recent threats. 

Planners also need to consider the overall security capacity of a venue as they develop their plan. Wackcrow gave the following example comparing two very different properties in regards to capacity: The Sheridan NY Hotel and Towers sometimes has up to 9,000 people per day walking through the lobby as compared to the Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale that may have just 175 people entering the hotel. These properties have different levels of basic security personnel scheduled to work.  When you are planning a meeting, especially when VIPs may be in attendance, additional security are going to be added. 

So what happens if you are caught in a threat situation today? Wackrow offered some critical advice for anyone that may be personally caught in a threatening situation, “You run, hide, and fight. Run is always the first option. Distance is your friend. Get away from the threat. If you can’t run, or if you’re running, and you come close to the active shooter, hide. When I’m saying hide, it’s not hide underneath a table…It’s hide and barricade to protect yourself until someone comes. And the last option is fight. You only fight them as the very last resort to stun them and go back to run or hide, always get back to the first thing which is to run.” 

Jonathan Wackrow
Jonathan is a top performing security professional with 16 + years of high-level management and operational planning experience with exceptional knowledge in risk assessments and safety operations. He has spent the majority of his career in the United States Secret Service, serving as the criminal investigator in New York City and serving on the Presidential Protection Division. As President of i4 Strategies, Jonathan advised leading corporations on critical infrastructure protection, physical security, executive protection and crisis management procedures. His philosophy towards corporate security is simple; security should be a workforce multiplier to enhance other divisions, helping to achieve the financial goals of the company. Jonathan is a regular commentator on security and risk management on CNN and other major news outlets.


Jonathan Wackrow
Jonathan is a top performing security professional with 16 + years of high level management and operational planning experience with exceptional knowledge in risk assessments and security operations. He has spent the majority of his career in the United States Secret Service, serving as criminal investigator in New York City and serving on the Presidential Protection Division. As President of i4 Strategies, Jonathan advised leading corporations on critical infrastructure protection, physical security, executive protection and crisis management procedures. His philosophy towards corporate security is simple; security should be a workforce multiplier to enhance other divisions, helping to achieve the fiscal goals of the company. Jonathan is regular commentator on security and risk management on CNN and other major news outlets.