As one of the biggest tourist destinations in the nation, Orlando, Florida represents a unique challenge for security professionals throughout the area. That is why the ASIS Media Tour provided an exciting opportunity to see what the host city for the ASIS 2016 Conference, Sept. 12-15, is doing to secure some of the major commercial buildings and facilities within Orange County.
The ASIS Media Tour started at the Orange County Convention Center, where we were able to talk with Orange County Convention Center Security director Timothy J. Wood, who shared some of the key security management strategies for the second largest convention center in North America with 2.1 million square feet of area to secure. Wood and his security staff work closely with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department to create a plan for the more than 200 events that are held at the conference center each year.
“We do a full security plan 21 days out,” he said, looking at the history of the event, attendees expected, guest speakers invited, as well as any high profile attendees, such as military, government or dignitaries.
Wood noted that “although we can’t harden all areas, the goal is to minimize any soft spots” that a criminal or terrorist, for example, might be looking at, and “deter them by disrupting that cycle of planning and surveillance,” as well as being proactive in addressing any suspicious activity. He said it is also vitally important “to have a plan in advance of each event that addresses crowd management,” especially for a big shows like Megacon, which has doubled in size over the past few years.
One thing that struck me is the sense of community that is present throughout the Orlando area, from police and fire personnel to security professionals working at these high-profile facilities, who many times are former police, as is the case with Wood. “We have been working for decades with law enforcement and have a great working relationship,” which he noted includes sharing information and identifying security trends and issues.
Wood attends monthly “tourist crime intelligence meetings” with local law enforcement, FBI, SWAT, Secret Service, and bomb squad and fire personnel, to look at upcoming events, and address concerns or trends in security or for Orange County.
He also emphasized the importance of having security staff trained in hospitality, as well as working closely with Orange County Convention Center public relations, marketing and communications to coordinated efforts, such as with mass notifications, messages, news releases, etc.
For all of its security management efforts, the OCCC won the ASIS Matthew Simeone Award for Public Private Partnership Excellence two years ago.
The next stop on the tour was The Mall at Millenia in Orlando, which comprises 1.2 million square feet over several levels. Greg Moore, security director, said that because of their location in Orlando, “we have a much higher emphasis on security than you will see in other malls,” from training for security and other staff to the technology and services that they employ.
There is also a big emphasis on prevention or deterring crime. “It starts with the tone we set when you pull into the parking lot, with our police and security presence, to when you walk into the building.” He noted that the image that you create and the initial impression create a “big deterrent” to someone who might be thinking of doing something bad.
He and his security staff, including assistant security director Justin Messenger, also examine incidents that have happened at other malls, such as the shooting that happened at a Maryland mall two years ago, to look at “best and worst practices,” which can then be applied during training for their staff, whether it is active shooter training or workplace violence training.
Security guards are also proactive in identifying and dealing with suspicious behavior. “We tell our security officers to control their environment and don’t let it control you,” which can be something as simple as security guards asking someone who is looking at a map, for example, if they can help them find something.
Messenger, who oversees much of the technology employed at the mall, noted that the mall has “state-of-the-art cameras with video analytics capability,” including the ability to record all activity in the mall. A command center has full access to video and can notify security of any suspicious activity so they can be proactive in mitigating any possible problems.
Moving on from the mall, our last stop on day one of the tour was at the University of Central Florida, which at more than 60,000 students represents one of the largest campuses in the nation. To secure such a large campus with so many schools and buildings, UCF has its own Police HQ, an emergency operations center and mobile command vehicle with satellite capability.
UCF Police chief Richard Beary, who has nearly 40 years in law enforcement, noted that a university of this size presents unique challenges, including continued growth, as the campus is about to embark on a project that will add a downtown campus in Orlando.
He noted that creating a campus that is designed to address current security concerns is of the utmost priority. “The biggest challenge with new facilities is what we call ‘value engineering’ where they engineer the value right of a building,” he said. “With the new campus, we can’t afford to do it the wrong way, and then retrofit it after the fact,” which he said has been a challenge with some of the more than 200 existing buildings at UCF.
With Florida a concealed carry state, Beary is concerned about current campus efforts to allow concealed weapons on campus, as he feels the training to get a permit “only requires a 45-minute class, which is not adequate enough training and does not even involve teaching them how to handle the weapon or even fire it.”
Jeff Morgan, UCF director of the department of security and emergency management, noted that the UCF Crisis Intervention Group “is a huge program that is very beneficial” as the group is trained to deal with the many issues that occur on campus, including sexual assault and other violent crimes.
Managing a campus with 11,276 doors with locks creates its own safety and security challenges, and Morgan noted that the campus is researching adding some more capability to the more than 2,000 cameras on campus. “We have had vendors come in and there are future plans to add that analytics capability.”
In addition to a fully functioning Police department, the EOC was activated in 2013, providing a state-of-the-art facility (with a backup generator) that allows security to monitor all facilities, host training of all kinds, leverage the latest technology, and to connect, coordinate and talk with law enforcement, security, fire and hospital personnel while pushing important and relevant security info to all parties in real time.
The EOC is also used as a backup for federal marshals, as well as by FEMA and DHS for training.
Days Two and Three
Our first tour stop on day two was at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, which recently brought on Chris Savard to fill a newly created position of director of security. Savard works closely with Annette DuBose, account manager for Andy Frain Services, a security management company that oversees the Phillips Center, to provide comprehensive security management protocols for a facility that is within sight of town hall and very much a part of the fabric of the community.
Savard, who is recently retired from law enforcement, said he wanted to begin to “change the culture and mindset” at the theater, with a stronger emphasis on security while still maintaining an “inviting and welcoming environment” for theatergoers.
One of the first things Savard did was start bag checks to better enforce a strict no weapons policy at the theater. “I was amazed and shocked at what they were trying to bring into the building,” he said, noting that items found during newly instituted bag checks included guns, knives, pepper spray and bullets, to name just a few.
Changing the culture at the theater is challenging, as bag checks or the use of wands, for example, is not something that is being done yet in New York’s theater district, for example. “Here in Orlando bag checks and the use of wands is becoming more of the norm, as you see it being done at Disney and other theme parks, so people are starting to get used to it,” said Savard, who noted that the theater is also considering starting checks for weapons using a wand, which would be done on a random basis. “After Paris, people want to see an increased police presence and focus on security.”
He said another important initial step to boost security was adding a police officer inside the building as well as a more strategic use of law enforcement officers outside. “We added a canine officer outside the theater to greet people as they drop-off and enter the valet area in front of the building, which we feel is a huge deterrent for a bad guy,” said Savard.
Security also brought in the Department of Homeland Security to do a complete assessment of the facility, looking for vulnerabilities and areas that can be hardened. “They found a few things that we were able to correct, such as varying our valet parking procedures,” noted Savard.
The assessment process included a 3D virtual analysis of the building that provided a comprehensive look at all of the access points and areas in the building, which can then be shared with and accessed by SWAT teams, for example, to aid them in getting in the building in the fastest and safest manner possible during an emergency situation.
In terms of video surveillance, cameras are located throughout the facility, especially “in high-value areas,” Savard noted, including five out in the front plaza area, as well as at all levels of the loading dock.
Security staff and employees are also given active-shooter and workplace-violence training. “This training is vitally important,” Savard said, as it teaches situational awareness, behavior assessment and counter surveillance, as well as how and when to engage someone who might be showing signs of suspicious behavior.
Savard also started offering a situational awareness and self-defense training class for female employees and their daughters, to teach them some basic techniques on how to neutralize someone and defend themselves better.
“Overall, we have increased security and taken it to the next level, so we are doing a lot better than we were,” said Savard.
Our next stop on day two was the Florida Hospital, where William S. Marcisz, senior director of security and a member of the ASIS Health Council, provided a comprehensive overview and guided tour of the hospital’s security program. With 10 hospitals over eight campuses, Marcisz relies on a large and highly trained security staff to manage buildings, including more than 1,000 access points and approximately 2,500 cameras.
When Marcisz arrived about three years ago, he suggested that the campus-based management structure be reorganized into one security department. “We designed it similar to a corporate security program but it is scalable,” said Marcisz, who noted that the program has five key elements, including operations (guard force management, for example), a communications division or dispatch, technology, including an IT department, a training division and investigations.
Marcisz explained that the training division is vitally important because it helps ensure that “communications and operations are synchronized and that we have everything standardized across the system.”
One area where the hospital sees “a lot of return on investment,” said Marcisz, is through investigations. “We investigate everything that is criminal in nature and we leverage our technology in our investigations, including our cameras, to help resolve many cases,” he explained.
Marcisz pointed out that through investigations, the hospital is able to get back hundreds of thousands of dollars each year in hospital assets, such as property that is either lost or stolen, as well as provide risk mitigation and defer litigation. “We did solve a case in 2015, for example, that saved us $15 million,” noted Marcisz.
Another key part of training is to ensure that all head security positions have certifications attached to them, such as the Professional Certified Investigator (PCI) certification through ASIS.
The hospital also developed a workplace violence prevention program that is managed through security. “We do threat management and have put together training programs developed in-house, including computer-based learning modules on active shooter and workplace violence,” said Marcisz. “And we are in the process of developing additional training for our leadership on how to manage workplace violence.”
Because the hospital has a constant turnover of staff, there is an employee orientation program, and staff receives MOAB (management of aggressive behavior) and CPI (crisis prevention intervention) training.
“Our safety violence risk assessment was also developed in house, and we are in the process of implementing that, which allows our nursing staff to match up objective criteria, in terms of a patient’s behavior, based on a stoplight system—red, yellow and green—that provides responses and actions that need to be taken as behavior escalates,” said Marcisz.
With close to 200 security personnel and growing, the hospital has a structured onboarding training process that consists of several different training modules an officer must complete once they finish orientation. “They must attain, and if applicable, get certified in certain skill sets (handcuffing, for example) before they can even interact with patients,” noted Marcisz. “A hospital is a very unique, high stress environment, so we have to be compassionate and customer service-oriented as well.”
Outside, each campus has two security vehicles that are equipped with video and license plate identification technology, including a strict parking policy to keep employees from parking in unauthorized areas.
In addition to the security team, the hospital has a threat management team and works closely with law enforcement and fire personnel.
On day three, our final stop on the tour was at the Hyatt Regency Orlando, formerly the Peabody, where Fred Prassack, director of security, talked about the challenges of securing the largest Hyatt convention property in the U.S.
Located next to the Orange County Convention Center, the hotel has 1,639 rooms and 105 breakout rooms as well as numerous meeting rooms, the largest of which is the size of two football fields. The hotel is also getting set to add a $450 million new tower with a conference center that will have approximately 350,000 square feet of meeting space.
To secure such a large property, the hotel has a main security office, a video monitoring and dispatch center as well as a small conference room for security meetings and briefings.
Prassack said that one of the keys to their success is having a staff that is all on the same page. “We have an officer training program, as well as a new-hire orientation program,” he noted, which includes security, fire safety and other emergency preparedness training. “We also have training for managers in areas such as anti-terror, active shooter and workplace violence, which is done in cooperation with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office.”
Prassack noted that he reminds security and other hotel staff that 9-11 “changed the way we live forever … many of our freedoms went away that day.” Staff is trained to look for suspicious activity and “be vigilant,” he said. “If you see something, say something. After orientation and training, I deputize them and have them sworn in, which makes them feel empowered to be able to do something, if needed.”
As a major convention hotel, Prassack speaks with other hotel security directors in the area and nationwide and participates in monthly sheriff’s crime intelligence breakfast meetings, which address current issues or concerns that security may need to address or be aware of, such as the Zika virus, which has been garnering a lot of attention lately in Florida.
On the technology side, the hotel also utilizes more than 400 Panasonic cameras with IP addresses and a separate hard drive. Cameras have motion sensors and record activity, which is saved for 30 days. The video surveillance room is set up on an automated schedule that provides views of cameras in key areas at the hotel, while taking the feed off of areas that are not active, such as the bar area in the morning.
This attention to detail is paramount at such a busy and bustling hotel property, said Prassack.