Monday, June 27, 2016

Special Investigation: Event and Travel Security

Event and Travel Security:
"Be Prepared, Not Scared".

As everyone we were shocked by the Orlando terror attack. In a horrible way though, headlines about terror attacks and mass shootings have become a sad new normal. Paris, Brussels, San Bernardino, Orlando.... the list goes on and on. We have decided to become pro-active.
Here are the results of our investigation into current security recommendations for the MICE industry.
An Interview with TIM BRADLEY, IMG GlobalSecur Managing Partner.

The New Reality:
In the last 12 months alone at least 309 people were killed by terror attacks in tourist destinations: the beach resort shooting in Sousse, Tunisia, the hotel attack in Hurghada, Egypt, the downing of the Russian charter jet leaving Sharm El-Sheikh, the little reported bombings on Bali and the beach resort attack in Ivory Coast.
Attacks occur on airports, resorts, shopping malls - "soft" targets that are hard to protect and that we all visit frequently.
Terror organizations of any ilk are going global, inspiring lone gunmen or suicidal bombers anywhere the internet has reach.
If you have traveled to any larger European city in recent months you have noticed the very visible security forces. Europeans have accepted a new normal.

We decided to investigate how this new reality affects our industry in the USA as well as our clients traveling abroad.
We contacted the Incident Management Group.
IMG is a Florida-based top-rated worldwide security consulting company, helping global corporations with executive and employee security consulting, travel security for VIPs and key personnel, and consulting on topics such as international threat assessment and supply chain security.
Timothy Bradley, IMG GlobalSecur Managing Partner, is a leading expert on global and domestic corporate event and travel security with over 30 years experience as a federal law enforcement officer, corporate security director and consultant. He was so kind to give us an interview.

Q: Mr. Bradley, how do you estimate the attack threat level in the US?

Tim Bradley: "Overall it is hard to say. The nature of terrorism is very asymmetrical. We were saying it's low but then we just had Orlando. We raised the threat level significantly after that. The problem we have with resorts, hotels and such is that they are just not hard targets and I don't really see anyone moving in that direction to make them a harder targets whereas if you go overseas, for instance in Tunisia where I visited recently and where they had the attack in Sousse, they have taken those measures to screen people who come onto the property. Here it is fairly easy to access any hotel or resort property. You have to understand that these are very soft targets. This said, it is a lot harder for some of these terrorist groups to mount extensive operations in the United States because of the distance and their inability to get people here trained and equipped for large scale attacks. That's why you see more of what they call  "inspired" attacks as in Orlando and San Bernardino.
Overall, what is the threat level? It does not really matter what it is. I can tell you that between now and the end of the year there will probably be another attack in the United States. Europol came out in January, predicting another Paris-style attack and we did have Brussels. The domestic threat level is concerning. It is time for people to become aware of their surroundings and understand that when they are in a crowded venue that that might be a target."

Q: What kind of to-do list or check list would you recommend to our readers? Should they enhance security?

Tim Bradley: "The first thing you have to understand is the duty you have to the people that are there. There is just that implied belief or assumption that you have taken every reasonable step to ensure their safety and security while they are at that venue. In order to do that you really have to have what we call an "advanced event security survey" and contingency plan developed. If something does happen you want to be able to know what your likely actions will be. It is not possible to plan for every possible contingency necessarily but you have to understand what is going on and you need to understand every security aspect of the venues. For instance, who do we need to contact? We always make contact with local law enforcement and the local fire department. We know where hospitals, urgent care centers and pharmacies are. This has to be done before the event, as part of the planning process. We have developed a template for the companies we work with. You have to have a plan in place so that if something were to happen, whether it is a terrorist attack or a natural disaster, your contingency plan goes into immediate action. You have to understand how to evacuate your people, how to care for your people. What kind of assist can you count on from your hotels, your DMCs, your transportation providers? Whatever it is, you have to know this before the event starts. It should begin with the first advance site visit. Safety, security and contingency need to be part of the overall event planning."

As the resorts in Sousse, Tunisia, several global venues have drastically changed their security protocol following high profile attacks. We studied two examples.

November 2008: 10 members of Lashkar-e-Taiba, an Islamic militant organisation based in Pakistan, carried out a series of 12 coordinated shooting and bombing attacks lasting four days across Mumbai, including at the 5-Star Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. The attacks began on Wednesday, 26 November and lasted until Saturday, 29 November 2008, killing 164 people and wounding at least 308.
Photo Credit: Reuters

Today, the Taj Hotel still bears the scars of the trauma, with its airport-style security. Most of its entrances are sealed, including the approach to a luxury shopping arcade. At the hotel’s main portico, cars are stopped while uniformed guards check their boots and undersides; suitcases and handbags are scanned, and visitors must pass through metal detectors.
       At the adjacent Gateway of India – a draw for tourists from across the country – an armoured tank, painted in jungle camouflage and surrounded by swarms of uniformed officers, stands vigil. Large yellow barricades, emblazoned, “Mumbai police force,” dot the waterfront.
Source: Amy Kazmin and Avantika Chilkotu/

On Saturday 21 September 2013, unidentified gunmen attacked Westgate shopping mall, the most upscale mall in Nairobi, Kenya. The attack resulted in at least 67 deaths, and more than 175 people were reportedly wounded in the mass shooting.The extremist Islamic group al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the incident,
Photo Credit: Reuters/Goran Tomasevic

In time for its re-opening in 2015 Westfield hired the private Israeli security firm International Reserve Group to ensure security with an all-around, comprehensive security protocol, including employee screening and training and the use of advanced, proprietary technical equipment.
IRG has about 25 specialist staff on site and will use about 55 guards from security firm G4S, an employee of the Israeli firm told Reuters inside Westgate.
New security features at the mall will include explosive detectors, luggage X-rays, scanners to check underneath cars, bollards to prevent car bombs and bullet-proof guard towers.
IRG has been operating in Kenya for 5+ years and the company also provides security for the American Embassy in Nairobi.

In many countries the public has accepted many restrictions on personal freedoms and comforts to enhance security. But what about Americans?

Q: Do you think that the American public could become comfortable with this level of security?
And would corporate VIP clients possibly agree to be inconvenienced by security measures to a certain degree?

Tim Bradley: "It's a double-edged sword. You want to have security. We always advocate a very discreet security presence at events. But military soldiers on the streets - you tend not to see that in America because there are certainly issues with military soldiers being used for law enforcement purposes. But will the public ever get used to it here? Probably!
There are certainly concerns when companies want to go oversees. I know that from the event planner standpoint that they don't want to scare people. We had a client recently that retained us to do a threat assessment on a location in Europe. They were very concerned about it due to the recent attacks over there. In fact, we worked with the incentive service provider and their client had insisted that they get a security plan in place. I think we see more and more clients demanding that plan to make sure they have taken every reasonable measure to keep their people safe. It is a different atmosphere in Europe since they suffered several attacks. We get almost daily reports of arrests of more terror suspects and apparently they are deploying 90 000 law enforcement and military to secure 10 stadiums for UEFA soccer championships in the coming days.It is a different atmosphere. Will Americans get used to it? Yes, I think so. Whether you go overseas or stay here, you might want to expect to see more of a police presence.
We have been working in security for many years. You want to provide security but you don't want to make people afraid. There is always that natural question: if we need that much security, should we even be going? We had a client 11 years ago for whom we did an advance. They were planning their annual incentive trip to London. London had just experienced the subway and bus bombing attacks so naturally security was a major concern. The client went forward with the trip and that moment was sort of a paradigm shift in security planning. We developed a very robust security template. The trip went well. They know always have that robust plan in place. People have to understand that the world has changed. What you have done in the past may not work in the future. A little bit of planning will go a long way to mitigate some of these situations. We have developed a smart phone app, FoneTrac, that allows people to check in and send panic alerts to our center with their geographic coordinates. This is really useful when people have time on their own, at leisure. This way they can send an alert from anywhere instantly. I still think that travel can be done safely but you have to plan for it.

Q: We have seen unrest in American cities. Is there a heightened risk within the U.S.?

Tim Bradley: "I think so. It certainly isn't safer than it was 5 years ago. You can get into just as much trouble in Los Angeles as in Paris or Brussels or anywhere else. It just may be another type of problem. You can be in L.A. and have a major earthquake. Prepare for that. You can be in New York City and have a terror attack. What is your plan? I think it is a safe country but there is a lot going on here, too.
 Talking about Los Angeles: we reached out to a number of local venues to see what procedures they have in place that they may be able to share with us. Obviously, secret security measures cannot be shared but rest assured: our conventions and entertainment venues are fully aware of growing threats - and we are told they are prepared.

"For every event that takes place at the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center, our security staff meets with the client and our local law and fire agencies to discuss security and safety measures. Based on the risk factors for the event, the level of security needed is then determined and put it place. In addition, our head of security at the Center is a retired Long Beach Police Sergeant, with many years of experience protecting facilities and events.”

Steve Goodling, President and CEO
Long Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau

“ Guest safety has always been of paramount importance at The Forum.  We continue to work closely with Inglewood Police and other agencies to have the most current information regarding our events and any concerns.  Our staff has been trained and we continue to drill on different scenarios and the proper response to all types of emergency situations.”

Nick Spampanato, General Manager, Fabulous Forum/ The Madison Square Garden Company

Contact Information for Tim Bradley is available upon request.
Please contact EventWorks.

It is a changing world. We have personally experienced very enhanced security traveling in Israel, African countries and some Asian cities. Long gone are the days when we just sauntered onto a plane here in the U.S. minutes before takeoff. We got used to the striptease at our airports. We may have to get used to much more security in all public places.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Our Floral Decor For A Good Cause: The SITE SoCal ALL IN Charity Poker Tournament

SITE Southern California's 3rd Annual ALL IN Charity Poker Tournament offered us the opportunity to stretch our creative wings, have fun and participate in raising funds for the San Diego Brain Tumor Foundation.
Rebecca Motus enjoyed the challenge of creating floral decor that would hopefully dazzle a ballroom full of event pros and Alisa Walsh met the Poker challenge!

We sponsored eight different arrangements that were used two-fold: as decor to embellish the night and as raffle prizes to help raise funds for the beneficiary of the night.

The tallest arrangement became the center piece for the buffet tables.

Two identical bamboo backed arrangements book-ended one side of the buffet. 

A spiraling arrangement enhanced the second buffet table. 

Single tall vases for smaller table rounds. 

A floral wheel greeted guests as they entered the patio area.
Cork backing added more interest and contrast to an orchids and roses display. 

Twists and spheres added character to the dessert tables. 

Meanwhile Alisa discovered a yet unknown talent at the poker table!
"The night was a blast, a very fun opportunity to mingle AND play poker. The food was delicious, the Fairmont did a great job. Everyone was laughing all night long and loving that our competitive natures were working for a good cause. Somehow (beginners luck!) I ended up winning and moving to the big time poker table!"

Alisa and Vicki Kern from JNR could not believe their good luck at the tables! Both were really happy to raise funds for the San Diego Brain Tumor Foundation at this industry event. 

SITE truly succeeded at turning an industry mingler into a very fun night for a good cause.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Event Report: Branding The Black-and-White Ball

The Event:
The annual Los Angeles Professional Services Black&White Ball for National Jewish Health,
consisting of a 90-minutes reception and a 3.5 hour Gala Dinner

Guest Count:
544 very distinguished industry leaders and philanthropists.

Location: Skirball Center

Our Task:
The creation of an elegant Black&White, custom branded decor for the night.

Brynne Peña was so committed that she chose her own outfit to match the decor. True dedication!

Brynne: "This annual event is one of the most elegant affairs in Los Angeles and its guest list consists of the Who's Who of  philanthropists and industry leaders. The Black&White Ball has two purposes: fundraising and celebrating the 2016 honorees. Our bar was set very high to provide an elegant, branded look for the decor throughout. We developed a black-and-white floor plan and tied it all together with splashes of yellow in floral decor and centerpieces."

Arrivals: a 200' black carpet, black rope and chrome stanchions, white check-in tables with black chair covers and yellow floral and a branded photo backdrop.

3' branded door clings honored the cocktail party sponsor. 
We wrapped the 24x12x24" stage, matching the look of the customized 18x18 white dance floor.

We added sparkle to both black and white.

And tied it all together with white and yellow floral and Manzanita branch statement centerpieces that were adorned with suspended votives. The manzanita branches were chosen as a visual representation of lung tissue that is so central to National Jewish Health's medical mission. 

Every little detail was considered. Custom, branded, black and white napkins and coasters were provided throughout the cocktail reception event and dinner table linens were chosen with sparkle and high end fabric choices in mind.
The overall result: a very elegant, classic look and atmosphere for this outstanding soiree.
Knowing that this annual gala in Los Angeles supports the mission of the world's leading hospital in respiratory health, especially the treatment of childhood asthma, makes this assignment even more rewarding for us.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Event Report: Working In A Tropical Paradise

Kristen Rensch and Rebecca Motus just returned from one of the most beautiful locations we have ever experienced!

But work is work - and we are happy to share the story.

The Event: An International Incentive and Reward Program.

The Location: Grand Velas Riviera Maya Resort, Quintana Roo, Mexico.

The Task: Decor and Floral for six separate events. Opening event, Closing event and four distinct dinner events.

The Journey to Paradise started off weeks earlier in our L.A. office with extremely detailed planning and preparations.

Kristen: "Shipping to Mexico required a lot of extra steps. We contracted with an international customs broker who has the knowledge of the customs temporary import process and relationships to ensure our shipments entered Mexico in a timely fashion, which was important in minimizing extended rental periods for linen. We shipped all table linens and napkins for all six events from our rental suppliers to our broker, who facilitated the customs process and shipment into Mexico and delivery to our resort venue. Outbound they assisted with customs clearance and facilitated a direct shipment back to our supplier. Mexico would have charged an export tax for any linens not accounted for upon export inspection, so we were especially diligent in ensuring all linen was accounted for prior to return shipment."

Kristen: "Due to the U.S. Customs regulations, we had to document every single item, including the information of all the cloth materials in pro-forma invoices. Next came the time table to ensure that all boxes would clear customs and arrive at final destination in time."

Kristen: "We had to fold and pack the used linens and napkins exactly the same way they had arrived! All boxes had detailed content labels that included numbers, descriptions and materials. We double checked the boxes after the event. Mexican customs found one missing napkin on export inspection. Typically a recount is not an option and adds additional export time. However, we were confident we had returned every piece of textile, and a second inspection proved this to be true.

We absolutely loved the location! Grand Velas is outstanding! Service and beauty go well passed five stars! We were inspired by the intricate decor and style of the resort.
And we could not have asked for a more cooperative and wonderful local staff!"
 Kristen with our wonderful local décor provider – Vincente.
 Our friends from Grand Velas' event and banquet staff.
Rebecca Motus was in charge of floral design for the event series.
"We collaborated with a local floral design company and we had had a very useful two-hour long conference call prior to our trip. Veronica and her staff were extremely helpful, sourcing all the flowers and providing the staff on site. As it turned out, many aspects of floral work get handled very differently in Mexico. For starters, the flower delivery trucks don't have cooling systems. Secondly, the decor style and assembly technique are different. Thirdly, our event took place immediately following the Mexico Mother's Day. There was barely a rose left in the country! Many flowers were completely sold out! We adjusted our designs to work with gorgeous, locally sourced tropical flowers and we became a great team."

Rebecca is still smiling as she recounts a cultural hurdle: "By the second day we had worked out the kinks in cultural differences. It turns out that we interpret time differently. Kristen and I adjusted schedules to allow for the extra 30 minutes." 
             Rebecca and Kristen with Veronica and her floral staff. 

Rebecca: "It all worked out very well and the client loved the floral designs."

Kristen: "This tropical adventure turned into a wonderful work experience and we both truly appreciate the great cooperation we got from our Mexican partners. We finally had time for a quick dip in the warm ocean waters on the very last day. I have to come back on vacation! Grand Velas is magical."

In case you were wondering: yes, everyone here at EW was willing to carry their bags to go along.
We always love and appreciate working in Mexico and Grand Velas was a great experience from all angles.

We are sending a very special "Muchisimas Gracias" to D.H. for hiring us for an event in Paradise!