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Safety & Security In Action:
A Hands On Security Field Trip

Moderator: Russ Gordon | Microsoft Theatre
David Avila | Staples Center
David Born | Staples Center
Edward Guidero | Microsoft Theater
Richard “Scott” Mitchem | U.S. Dept. of
Homeland Security
Joe Schuetz | L.A. LIVE

This was as it says: a field trip; not a panel. Event Safety Alliance provided delegates an opportunity to check out Microsoft Theater’s security procedures with the help of the staff.

The theatre not only hosts scores of events each year but about 10 awards shows annually in the center of the entertainment capital of the world.

As was noted at the beginning of the tour, it may not be something the venue security staff is proud of but can confidently say that it is a potential target for people who want to do “bad things,” as event visitors were divided into groups of 12 and were walked through the facility to various stations and presentations by the L.A. Live team of David Born, David Avila, Joe Schuetz, Edward Guidero and Russ Gordon, along with Scott Mitchem of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

They explained security procedures and how to deal with the problems of that. But they’ve had practice: metal detectors and wands have been standard operating procedure since it opened in 2007. Everyone is searched; even the artists.

“A lot of artists don’t want to get checked but it is what it is. Everybody needs to get screened,” Guidero said. “All of the staff. All of the vendors. They actually enter at Staples Center and we have an underground tunnel to here. It’s basically because it’s a bigger venue and has a uniform room and they can collect their radios there.”

Guidero stressed that the physical barriers constructed around L.A. Live for events like the Grammys not only reduce lookeeloos but also helps with staffing. For a concert, Guidero has a security coordinator such as David Born who runs the security command center and, out in the field, he will have one to two back-of-house super-visors and anywhere from two to three front-of-house supervisors.

There can be up to 19 officers for back-of-house and the front is predicated on how many doors are opened up. For 4,300, nine doors are opened and an additional are opened for above 5,000 (the arena has a 7,100 capacity).

There will be 10 officers added for that. Basically, for a concert, about 60 officers.

No artist security is allowed on the floor during an awards show.

“The fire marshals here are very strict. They don’t let us get away with very much,” Guidero said. “The artist security will either need to stand by in a dressing room or, if they have a ticket, assume a seat. That’s about it. They don’t really like me for that but I just say, ‘Can’t help you’ and I blame it on the fire marshal. I don’t mind being a bad guy but if there’s a fire marshal to blame, makes it easier for me.”

Mitchem and the Department of Homeland Security offer free training and consultation to venues because, as he put it, “impact will happen.”

The department’s job is to help prevent, mitigate and recover from man-made disasters. There are free assessment and online training courses.

“And if we’re better improving their security, we’re better im-proving the nation’s security,” Mitchem said. Courses can include how to properly search a vehicle for special events, a one-day course on what an IED may look like inside a vehicle and how to determine if it’s really a bomb, and a three-day surveillance detection course. (“Someone taking pictures of your back door might be a little bit off.”)

Virtual training on topics like terrorism and improvised explosives is online and one can get training with a certificate. Advice can include details of flood impact, such as keeping sandbags, elevating the HVAC to the roof, etc. Cyber-security personnel can assess the cyber infrastructure.

And Mitchem has seen it all.

“One time going through a three-day protection services course, we actually detected surveillance on a facility, one of them on a mall where they actually followed through,” he said. “The guy had an arsenal and plans on how to do an attack on the mall. Security had actually seen him but didn’t know what it was because they hadn’t gotten trained.”

Mitchem said the biggest problem he has seen is staff’s hesitation to report.

“That’s why we foot-stomp ‘If You See Something, Say Something,’” he said. Meanwhile, unfortunate as the recent Orlando, Fla., attack was, it not only opened up a lot of eyes, “it opened up a lot of wallets.”

However, the Staples Center has had metal detectors from 2001 and the Microsoft Theater since it opened. The theatre uses a greeter on the exterior, going up and down the line checking for tickets, preparing the patrons for the search, asking them to get metal items out of their pockets and to open backpacks.

Then a person checks the bags on the table and a third is on standby with a hand wand.

The total process should last four to seven seconds if the greeter did a good job. Wanding is another 8 seconds; a bag search can last 30. Metal detectors cost about $2,500.

There are more expensive ones at $5,000 but execs at Microsoft didn’t see the benefits of the extra cost.

– Joe Reinartz