Pictured above (Front row, left to right): Bill Flynn, Bruce Davidson, Ray Bloom (Back row, left to right): Brad Mayne, Larry Arnaudet, Eric Roszenberg, Richard Vaughn, David DuBois, Kevin Olsen
How Prepared is the Meetings Industry for Elevated Threats of Terror?
Recently the International Association of Venue Managers (IAVM), the International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE) and the Exhibition Services & Contractors Association (ESCA) came together to address the # 1 priority of our memberships. The safety and security of our attendees, members, stakeholders, employees and the general public that attend meetings, conferences, conventions and exhibitions every day around the world. We all recognized the need to address this priority and the potential for greater collaboration. Given the current threat assessments provided by top security professionals, it became clear that our industry must establish national guidelines for convention centers and related venues around the U.S. and align ourselves with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Safety Act office. Being known as the Life Safety and Security experts in our industry IAVM was a strategic fit for leading this initiative. Together with IAEE, ESCA and several industry executives the Exhibition and Meetings Safety and Security Initiative (EMSSI) was created.
Goal of the Initiative
EMSSI is the conduit for organizations and individuals to participate in the shared responsibility of addressing industry wide needs for safety and security. EMSSI represents an opportunity for companies and individuals who have benefited from the industry’s growth to give back. The more organizations and individuals contribute to the safety and security of conventions centers and related venues around the U.S., insuring we have established industry wide security guidelines and smart practices, the greater the industry will prosper for generations to come.
The Current State of the Industry
Today, the Convention Industry Council (CIC) has estimated that meetings, exhibitions and business travel has an economic impact of $283 billion dollars, generating $44.9 billion in taxes and representing 2.3 million jobs. We have seen unprecedented growth over the last 7 years and forecasts for the future remain strong. It is vital that we maintain eternal vigilance in our efforts to protect this economic engine, and more importantly, to insure the safety of the millions of people every day that attend and serve this vibrant community.
Terrorist Threat Environment
We live in a very dynamic threat environment and DHS and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have expressed their continued concern about the potential for Homegrown Violent Extremists (HVE) — especially those adhering to the Islamic State’s (ISIL) violent ideology — to conduct attacks against a range of soft targets (e.g., convention centers) in the U.S. with little to no warning. They urge federal, state and local authorities, as well as private sector security partners, to work closely in their security planning and response protocols. They also highlight the continued threat we face:
- Islamist terrorists will continue to pose a significant threat to the U.S. and its allies— ISIL and its supporters have now been linked to 105 plots targeting Western interests globally.
- ISIL, al Qaeda, and other Islamist extremists have built a global network of sanctuaries they can leverage for directing and inspiring terrorist attacks.
- Radical Islamists are exploiting everything from social media applications, including encrypted technologies, to recruit adherents and conduct terrorist operations.
Given the ever-present threats we face from acts of terrorism and other emergencies; our industry requires a coordinated approach to protect our patrons, employees and economic resources that incorporates best-in-class security practices in collaboration with government partners. This is why EMSSI has created a public/private partnership that aligns convention center security guidelines with federal programs (National Preparedness System, National Infrastructure Protection Plan, etc.) and the Department of Homeland Security/Safety Act Office. To learn more or to donate to this important initiative please visit us online. You can also see the EMSSI announcement by watching the video below (starting at about 1:10).