The current hybrid meeting environment means that association leaders need to think about meeting security in two ways now. A wider variety of online meeting formats and tools introduces new opportunities for attendee data to be stolen and exploited. And a fresh round of prominent stories about mass shootings in recent months has attendees and meeting planners understandably concerned about how to keep their events safe.
Len Murphy, vice president and general counsel at the Property and Liability Resource Bureau, an insurance industry trade association, has been exploring the physical security question over the past year as PLRB has returned to in-person meetings. He’s asked venues to discuss their plans for active-shooter scenarios and to detail the vetting that security firms undergo.
“You have to work with the venue and find out: How prepared are they?” he said. “Are they getting more prepared?”
Working With Venues
In Murphy’s experience, venues have been accommodating and open about discussing their preparations. For PLRB’s spring 2022 conference in San Antonio, Texas, for instance, the convention center shared its nine-page “emergency action plan,” which details guidance around dangerous scenarios—terrorist incidents, suspicious packages, active shooters, and more. (The active-shooter response reiterates the FBI’s “Run, Hide, Fight” protocol.)
But a lengthy PDF document shared on a conference app is only so helpful, especially in the middle of an unfolding crisis. Murphy recommends that presenters and volunteers be trained on safety procedures before the meeting.
“You should at least get them thinking about escape routes,” he said. “In hotels and convention centers, there are staff-only exits and entrances, and we wanted to make sure that people were aware that there’s more than one way to get out and that you’re free to use those staff access points” during an incident.
PLRB has also asked for more clarity from the security firms at its venues regarding how attendees are treated by security personnel to avoid escalating any confrontations. The association has asked venues to include language in its contracts barring security staff from “unwanted touching, restraint, or intimidation of others” and indemnifying PLRB from any such conduct. “We haven’t gotten pushback on it,” Murphy said.