ASIS Atlanta-bound in 2008

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Tuesday, April 1, 2008

ATLANTA - It’s never too early to start planning ahead. ASIS International, in coordination with the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau, in February sponsored a vendors and media tour to showcase the host city for ASIS International’s 54th Seminar and Exhibits, to be held Sept. 15 through 18. The three-day event included guided tours of the convention center, local hotels and the opportunity to speak with some of the security directors in charge of securing some of Atlanta’s most popular public attractions.
The Georgia World Congress Center, the convention space for ASIS 2008, boasts 1.4 million square feet of show floor space, including three large main exhibit halls that together are over three-quarters of a mile long, said Katy Pando, the associate director of marketing for GWCC.
Members of the media had a chance to sit down with the director of public safety for the GWCC, William Shannon, who explained the unique issues involved with securing a large public space. The GWCC complex includes not only the convention center, but also the Georgia Dome, home of the Atlanta Falcons, and Centennial Olympic Park, a 21-acre outdoor space that served as the primary gathering place during the 1996 Olympic Games and now holds free activities and public events.
Shannon said communication and procedural compliance with other enforcement agencies are priorities for the GWCC and announced that the organization is nearing the final stages of receiving accreditation through the Chiefs of Police Association. This accreditation will standardize GWCC’s operating procedures with the Georgia State Police, Atlanta Police and Fulton County Sheriff’s departments.
“The accreditation really allows us to operate on the same level with these other agencies,” Shannon said. “Instead of having different ways of communicating or different ways of operating, we can all follow the same high standards and not have one agency tripping over another.” Shannon said that every six months, the GWCC’s 46 security guards and 30 police officers conduct emergency preparedness drills, and practice smaller drills periodically, to evaluate how effectively they communicated within the department and outside agencies.
The media group also received an exclusive tour with the director of safety and security for the Georgia Aquarium, H. Alan Davis. Davis, who is a retired police officer with the state police, explained the unique security threats the aquarium faces including people-safety issues, exhibit and animal protection concerns and evacuation procedures that could potentially include “millions of gallons of water.”
Davis showed the media the aquarium’s central monitoring station where operators communicate with ground security to control over-crowding at exhibits, monitor activity in the secure areas above exhibits as well as watch for suspicious activities. Davis said that the Georgia Homeland Security Department did a threat assessment of the aquarium prior to its opening in 2005 to ensure proper procedures were in place. The aquarium has a minimum of two police officers on site, 24 hours a day. “The aquarium has 156 cameras installed throughout the main building and warehouse,” Davis said. “We have more electronics installed in the here than in the Dome.” SSN