While its many educational sessions brimmed with valuable industry tips and insights, and its exhibition floor buzzed with activity, the main event at the MPI Northern California chapter’s annual ACE event featured a difficult topic that is on most people’s minds now in the meetings industry: security.

Held at San Francisco’s Moscone Center North convention facility, the March 9 event’s general session lunch program was highlighted by the Security Issues & Concerns for Event Organizers: Current Safety Trends in Event Security program, presented by Clarence Izzard, director of security for Marriott Vacations, and Jonathan Wackrow, executive director of RANE (Risk Assistance Network and Exchange).

A former Secret Service agent and member of the Presidential Protective Division for five years, in addition to working six years with ITT/Starwood, Wackrow, as well as Izzard, didn’t mince words when it came to alerting attendees of the threats “soft targets” such as meetings and events pose.

“The best strategy involves a fundamental understanding of security elements, sound protocols and access to expert resources utilized systematically for each bespoke meeting,” Wackrow told the crowd, emphasizing that although the task may seem daunting, considering the totality of responsibilities involved with planning meetings and events, security should be of paramount concern and built into the day-to-day workflow in planning and executing any event. “You are the logistical masters. Just think of it as adding security and safety measures to that workflow. The facility team will help, but you have to ask the questions.”

Izzard followed up with a more stark view of the peril threats such as terrorism and active shooters now present to any gathering with lots of people in a vulnerable and/or confined area.

“Everything you do, day in and day out, you should be aware of the surroundings,” Izzard stressed. “Guests will immediately know when a bad thing has happened, so communication will become key to make them remain calm…And if you don’t have a plan, knowing this may happen, you face great liability, including [criminal prosecution].”

For a comprehensive event security checklist from RANE, access www.MeetingsToday.com/Checklists.