By Michael Gatto
On Wednesday, July 26th, the Greater Columbus Convention Center provided the backdrop for the Columbus Venue Security Summit, an event that facilitated a crucial opportunity for a diverse group of community members from across Columbus to unite, learn, strategize, and bolster guest safety. This gathering drew attendees from a spectrum of Columbus’ sports and entertainment venues, in addition to representatives from the Columbus Police and Fire Departments. At the heart of this summit was Mark Herrera, a powerhouse in the Safety and Security field with an impressive background with the International Association of Venue Managers and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. With his guidance, this event centered on preparing for the unexpected – arming event center staff, law enforcement, and first responders with the tools they need to respond effectively to difficult situations.
But what truly stood out was the emphasis on collaboration. In today’s world, safety is a collective endeavor that goes beyond departmental boundaries. From Nationwide Arena to The Schottenstein Center to Lower.com Field and beyond, venue staff members joined forces, recognizing their shared responsibility to ensure safety. Herrera’s message hit home: “We are all vicariously liable for the safety and wellbeing of any event and all facilities.”
Brooks Imhoff, the Director of Event Services at the Schottenstein Center, perfectly encapsulated this spirit of collaboration. He played a pivotal role in organizing the summit and highlighted the importance of training event staff as the first line of response. Their ability to handle issues before they escalate further is vital, and this summit empowered them to do just that.
While the training wasn’t a typical hands-on drill, it was equally impactful. Herrera’s approach focused on programming the subconscious mind, ensuring that every staff member had a mental “hazard library” to draw from in challenging situations. This kind of preparation is invaluable, helping individuals respond swiftly and effectively when it matters most.
The event was a reminder that no matter our role – whether security personnel, event staff, or attendees – we’re all part of a larger community with shared goals. Collaboration was the true hero of the day, reinforcing the idea that safety is a collective effort.
Michael Gatto is Chief Operating Officer for Columbus Arena Management and Senior Vice President, Nationwide Arena.