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by Peter Yachmetz | May 11, 2018

Peter Yachmetz, private security consultantMaking meeting and event venues in high-profile destinations completely secure is virtually impossible -- but steps can be taken to mitigate risk. A key feature of any proactive security strategy is a strong training program for staff, something that meeting professionals should discuss with their hotel and other venue suppliers. As a 29-year veteran FBI agent with six additional years in private-sector corporate security, I offer the following insights into what effective training entails.

Properly discreet hospitality security blends technology (e.g., CCTV surveillance coverage) with proven identification techniques. Staff in all departments should be taught methods of awareness and observation to identify potential suspicious individuals within the venue. A well-trained staff that can inconspicuously monitor, identify and react to observed suspicions is a valuable security asset.

While general hotel staff should learn at least the rudimentary aspects of venue security -- how to be observant and what to look for -- a hotel's dedicated security staff should receive more detailed training in specialized topics such as the physical security of the property; safety and emergency procedures; body language; situational awareness (being aware of what is happening in your vicinity); triggers of suspicion; surveillance; workplace violence; dealing with an active shooter; internal investigations and communication; applicable legal matters; bomb threats; liaison with police and other authorities, and more.

In particular, staff should become comfortable identifying red-flag characteristics such as the following.

Body language/general appearance:
• Nervous/evasive attitude and demeanor;
• Inappropriate dress (heavier clothes than necessary in warm weather; a lean person wearing suspiciously bulky clothes);
• An excessive concern with privacy.

Suspicious behavior:
• Soliciting unusual information ("How many people do you have working security?" "Are those security cameras always on?");
• Making a cash deposit to hotel account;
• Insisting on handling own bags, especially when bags seem unusually bulky/heavy;
• Attempt to use of a credit card in another name ("This is my wife's… she's right outside." "This is my friend's. He'll be in shortly.");
• Denial of entry to room/repeated refusal of housekeeping services;
• Using hotel entrances/exits the general public normally wouldn't use, such as service entrances/elevators (as used by Stephen Paddock, the Las Vegas shooter).

Of course, these are all characteristics you, as a meeting planner, should be aware of as well. As the saying goes, "If you see something, say something."

Peter Yachmetz is a private security consultant and founder/president of Yachmetz Consulting Group LLC.