5 min read

5 Things Your Conference Security Plan Needs

Procuring event services can be tricky. When the services in question relate to the health and safety of your guests, staff, and the community at large, it can seem daunting to get it right.  The goal of this piece is to help guide you through the critical parts of writing the RFP for your conference security plan. We discuss the essential elements, offer advice for prioritization and practice, and provide guidance to prepare a complete RFP to secure a variety of security related services.


Command & Control 

Arguably, the most important piece of the puzzle is command-and-control. The role of a Command Center is making sure that the well-orchestrated plan functions without a hitch. The best thought out plans can go awry without a central person or unit controlling the effort. Having the ability to both command units in the field and also control resources effectively is what sets a vendor apart. 

When crafting the RFP, it’s important to identify and validate bidding vendors’ experience with handling the type of event that you are putting on, and also their capability to execute your goals. At the end of the day, the Command Center will ultimately determine the success of your security plan. Sometimes this function is fulfilled by your own team and as long as there’s a clear plan for how to manage the different assets, it shouldn’t be an issue. Challenges arise when people are pulled away and are not entirely focused on the security plan. In those instances, it’s best to have a dedicated provider to manage the entire plan.

In an RFP, this should be addressed by including an expectation that the provider has well-rounded people. Not just security people, but people who understand the event, get the different types of resources in place, and have demonstrated experience coordinating different resources at similar events.


Executive Protection

Often thought of as “bodyguarding,” Executive Protection (EP) encompasses close protection “bodyguarding,” as well as advance operations and other support functions related to keeping specific people or groups safe. You should consider implementing an EP plan if your event will have VIPs or otherwise notable guests or participants. In many cases, notable individuals hire their own EP, and your selected security vendor should understand how to coordinate with those teams. However, some events will host individuals that are notable in their fields, and not otherwise known to the general public. Similarly, there are instances where attendees or participants may have temporary notoriety due to controversy or relevance in the media. In these cases, the individuals will most likely not have EP in their day to day lives, but it may be advisable to provide that service to them on site. 

If the decision is made to provide EP to specific individuals at the event, some factors to consider in the RFP include whether the protectors should be uniformed or non-uniformed, armed or unarmed, and whether they will be dedicated to one individual or rotate throughout an assigned list of protectees. Additionally, the type of provider should be listed in the RFP if relevant, such as Off-Duty Police Officers (ODOs), former LEOs or military, or specific gender requirements, if applicable. 

The right EP plan will give designated protectees a sense of security, while not interfering with event programming or the general attendee experience. It is important to avoid vendors that are unwilling to abide by the desired protocols, or are too rigid with their own methods. The vendor should be receptive to working within your organization and follow your guidelines while successfully keeping your protectees secure. 


Explosive Detection Canine (EDC) 

A commonly undervalued security measure is the deployment of an Explosive Detection Canine (EDC) team. Often referred to as “K9’s”, EDC teams can be a very valuable resource for both threat response and prevention. An EDC team consists of one Explosive Detection Canine (dog) and their handler. When employed correctly, EDC teams can quickly clear possible threats such as unattended packages, or packages too large or inconvenient to be searched by traditional methods. 

There are a number of EDC breeds, so if you have a preference for a particular type of doc (such as a labrador versus a german shepherd), that should be spelled out in the RFP. Additionally, you should outline the posture you want the EDC to take when on-site. Delineate whether you prefer the team walking the floor or if you would rather that they stay out of sight until requested. Different events call for different applications, so think about how your guests will perceive an EDC team walking the event space, or whether it is beneficial for members of the public to know that you have a bomb sniffing dog on-site. 

Hiring an EDC team can cost up to $100/hour or more, so it is certainly an investment toward safety and security. The correct use of an EDC team at your event will result in added peace of mind among your attendees and staff, while not disrupting the experience you intend for everyone in attendance. 


Law Enforcement Officers 

If you are considering the hiring of on-duty or off-duty law enforcement officers (LEO) ask yourself two questions: What is the goal? Why do you need to have that goal? Be sure to consider guests who are from communities who might have an adverse experience with law enforcement. The answer to these questions can guide you toward the decision of whether to hire LEOs or not. Some venues mandate the use of LEOs in their spaces, and if that is the case, the below guidelines are helpful but may not be applicable due to department or venue policies. 

If you have the option, and decide that having LEOs on site is important, then the following are a range of items to consider in the RFP. Determine whether the LEOs should be uniformed vs non-uniformed. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. Uniformed officers provide a strengthened deterrent against would-be threats, while non-uniformed officers reduce the potential discomfort that some communities might experience among law enforcement. 

Additionally, think about how the LEOs are communicating, and with whom. What is required, what is desired? Are they able to communicate for additional support from on-duty units in the jurisdiction? Should they be, and can they be, connected with the event command center? As you answer these questions, consider the communications equipment you may have to provide, or the communications protocols you will need to implement to ensure seamless operations with your contracted law enforcement officers. 

Fundamentally, as you’re building the RFP, you need to think about the goal of hiring LEOs, how their presence may or may not disrupt your event, and what restrictions exist regarding how the LEOs can be utilized to ensure you have the right approach built in. 


Weapons Abatement

What level of weapons abatement is appropriate for the event and/or the venue? Weapons abatement varies by process and technology. Some methods of weapons abatement are less invasive than others, for example x-ray machines tend to be less invasive than physical bag inspections. When writing the RFP, be clear about the desired weapons abatement strategy you hope your vendor will use to filter out vendors that may be unable to execute the desired measures. 

The cost of weapons abatement varies broadly based on several factors such as speed, technology, and thoroughness. You’ll need to consider whether you want to prioritize screening guests quickly, thoroughly, or both. Each of these will require a different approach. Likewise, you should determine how invasive you are willing to be with your guests. You should consider how your guests may respond to a more invasive approach, or how they might perceive a less invasive approach. 

A cautionary note: when implementing weapons abatement measures, they should be applied evenly to all guests with very few exceptions. Accommodations should only be made for bonafide cases requiring deviation from the process, such as guests falling under the ADA,  but alternative measures should be established for foreseeable exemption situations. Your selected security vendor should be able, ready, and willing to enforce your established procedure across the board, and should also be equipped to manage any accommodations needed.

A successful weapons abatement strategy will exist at the intersection of safety and guest experience. The measures should be “right-sized” for the event or venue, and should exist within the expectations of your attendees. 

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