The nature of convention center
security has undergone dramatic change over the past two
years. Whereas protecting property and deterring theft used to be
the primary goal of facility security, the specter of terrorism has
created new and critical priorities.
“Convention and exhibit centers are public-assembly venues and
high-profile targets of opportunity,” says Fred Costello, director
at New York City-based security firm Kroll Worldwide. “Centers have
special requirements, and that’s what we have to consider
In January, the Coppell, Texas-based International Association
of Assembly Managers released Convention Center Best Practices
guidelines to address the new realities of keeping facilities
It’s about time, says Greg Forehand, security director at the
newly expanded Orange County Convention Center in Orlando.
“Everything has changed, and now the focus is more on security,” he
In response to mounting demands for safety, a bevy of
technological and mechanical devices are being used in increasingly
Smile: You’re on camera
Advances in digital camera and recording technology represent a big
step up from the analog devices of earlier years.
“After 9/11, I put in digital color cameras,” says Greg
Forehand in reference to his Orlando facility’s newer North/South
Hall, with its one million square feet of exhibit space. “Before,
we just had regular VCR cameras, but now we can zoom in on meeting
room doors, and we have motion detectors in the hallways.”
The Hawaii Convention Center in Honolulu also has undertaken a
major upgrade. “We’ve gone from black-and-white analog to color
digital, and all of the cameras have VCR recording,” says general
manager Joe Davis. The system also includes motion sensors. “If the
camera sees something in a corridor and there’s motion, it’ll
record it,” Davis explains.
Increasing the number of cameras helps keep track of who
enters what parts of the building, agree security managers. “In the
past, we mainly would have cameras on a ramp, a loading dock or
maybe the front doors,” says Lewis Dawley, senior vice president,
convention center operations and business development for SMG, a
Philadelphia-based facility management firm. But now, he adds,
centers are studded with electronic “eyes” watching areas ranging
from doorways to electrical and water systems. The equipment is
very expensive, he notes, and for maximum effectiveness, security
staff need to keep tabs on the camera feed on a regular basis.
Loud and clear
In the event of an emergency, being able to communicate with others
both inside and outside a facility is paramount, says Craig Park,
vice president, professional products group, for Northridge,
Calif.-based Harman International. Park works on developing and
installing high-tech sound systems that let staff and emergency
workers be heard.
“Our major concern is high-quality articulation and
intelligibility,” Park says, explaining that although the typical
fire alarm systems are very loud, they generally produce poor sound
quality. “They aren’t good for relaying directions. Centers need a
component that gives fire marshals and authorities the ability to
direct people and be understood.”
At San Francisco’s Moscone Center, Park worked with
contractors, consultants and others to develop the audio system in
the new West Building. He used high-grade loudspeakers and designed
the layout to ensure clear sound quality throughout the hall.