Providing Security while the RNC Partied in New York

On August 30 through Sept. 2, the Republican National Convention descended upon New York City


Four staff members were watching the monitors at all times during the event, and behind them sat a table with maps and diagrams -- charts to plot VIPs at the party, a huge plat of the city, aerial photos of the location, and regularly updated satellite imaging of the area so that they could watch traffic and crowds.

Then they had the wall that served as ground zero for communications. The emergency operations director updated this digital status wall, showing situation reports -- from catering deliveries to VIP issues to intoxicated attendees.

To top it off, Sordi's firm added an on-site EMT to the room to deal with health issues of attendees -- something that actually cropped up twice, once with an epileptic seizure and another time with a patron who had overindulged in the events spirits.

The plan detailed everything -- from fire suppression to parking to communications with police forces to how to work with other security firms who would be on-site providing executive protection for their clients. Sordi's firm even planned for a conflict resolution area outside of the facility where access issues could be dealt with. Extra egress was planned, with the ability to shuttle VIPs away from the media via access through an attached hotel. Along the way, the plan had to face security issues like where to direct protesters without invading first amendment rights. Plain clothes officers were added to protester groups to stay alerted on group activities and movements, with information from these individuals coming back to the company's analysts to determine how it would affect their clients.

The support equipment was voluminous. Car mats and mirrors were brought in to look under the vehicles of arriving guests, not to mention magnetometers, bomb-sniffing dogs and a score of communications systems, from two-way radios to Blackberry devices to satellite phones and more.

Looking Back
When all was said and done, security for the event really didn't make the nightly news -- because the security plan had worked; no security breach put anyone in jeopardy and Sordi's company remained fortunately nameless to the major media.

But that doesn't mean that Sordi didn't take away some lessons during the process, and he offered those to SIW users. Here's what he suggests:

Analyze your chain of command - Sordi kept his chain of command for the event simple, with just one emergency operations manager sending out the directives. The last thing you want, he says, is confusion in your plan.

Know your assets - Knowing how to use access through a neighboring hotel allowed him to keep one high-profile client under wraps at an event for Cartier Jewelers that his company also served during the convention, but he also point to knowing the other assets - like who will be working on the catering or delivery service. "The worst person in your security plan is the delivery guy," says Sordi. "Put someone in a uniform and they can often walk right in with a package." Don't overlook anything that will affect the security of your event.

Know your finances - It's not enough anymore just to provide security; with today's economy you have to show them that investing in security provides a positive return. Remember the project needs to be a financial success for both parties. Sordi says that, while the event was a profit center, if they had taken a closer, up-to-the-hour look at expenditures, more profit could have been built in without cutting corners

Recognize when you're overextended - Taking on everything that had to do with security was well within Strategic Security Corporation's ability, but when it came to helping the client with the permit process, they found themselves out of their league - in the future, Sordi says they will consider bringing on someone to do event planning to take care of those details

Make it personal - The sign of the successful completion of a security detail, says Sordi, is when you develop a personal relationship with your client. It brings repeat business and allows the security to integrate with the event even more easily.

Prepare your new hires - Sordi had some new hires who were "thrown into the fire" with this event, and had to keep up. While they were law enforcement veterans, the complexity of a new system can add up to frustration, especially when dealing with new concerns like working with caterers, new managers and more. To overcome this, K.I.S.S. - Keep It Simple, Stupid, says Sordi - and know your employees' comfort level.