Earlier this year, I was given the opportunity to transition from sales into an operational role, as the newest event coordinator at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, GA. My first task was to inform all of my inherited clients of our new security policy. I understood why we were tightening our security policies, but I didn’t fully understand why we would enforce such strict polices on all events happening in the facility. At the time, my events varied in size and type, but typically stayed in the sub 20,000 attendees- all day band or high school football type event. This is a story all about how my events got twisted upside down, so I’d like to take a minute, just sit right there and I’ll tell you how I handled my first security threat. (Yes, I went there and you’re welcome- that song will be stuck in your head the rest of the day).
My very first phone call was to one of our “legacy” events – meaning they had been a client and partner of the Georgia Dome for over 10 years…let’s just say that call did not go over well. They are a smaller, non-profit event with a tight budget and here comes the new girl talking about wanding, clear bag policies and bag check tent locations. These increases were not going to be cheap, and the client was not thrilled about their options (or lack thereof).
For the first time in the history of the event (country wide) we would be wanding every participant and inspecting every prop / instrument prior to granting them access into the facility. It was a large undertaking and something we had never attempted to accomplish before. I made two trips to their headquarter city to help prepare and iron out the details. There was major push back from the client who did not fully see the value in wanding participants, but in order to maintain the integrity of a “clean venue” we stood our ground.
Now, fast forward a few months to the day before my first ticketed event. We had just concluded the pre-event meeting and were walking around the facility when I received a call from my boss. This was not a normal Friday afternoon call- it was my first ever Code Red. I followed our security procedures, gathered my clients (a team of 20 or so), loaded them on golf carts and transported them to our gathering spot.
While awaiting further instructions, I received a call from another member of the group who was not yet in Atlanta. She was unaware of the situation currently happening, and informed me that the CEO needed me to call him immediately. I soon learned that the client had their own Code Red that involved the local FBI department. I was then dealing with two separate emergency situations with no clear indication of whether or not they were related (again, at my first ticketed event!). A few hours later we were given the all clear and the original threat was deemed invalid and unrelated to the event related threat.
That still left us with a real, event related threat. I made the decision to inform my main on site point of contact of the situation and instructed them as to how we would proceed. We started the day off as if nothing was lingering in the back of our minds. We tightened security, stuck to our policies and about half way through the event, we received a call from the FBI informing us that the threat had been located and we were no longer in danger – HUGE sigh of relief! Once I delivered the message to the client, she finally took a breath for the first time all day, and proceeded to thank me for pushing the additional security.
So what did this incident teach me about security in this industry? It taught me five things:
- Remember to breathe since things can (and will) go wrong.
- Internal threats are just as real as external regardless of the event size.
- People tend to dislike change or the price tag they pay for security, but in the end are thankful.
- Be kind, patient and appreciative of your security staff. Test them often, correct them when you can but acknowledge the good work they do along the way.
- And most importantly- Canine Units are the best company if you are stuck in the screening area all day (how can you not be happy with an adorable Labrador Retriever sitting next to you).