At the Frontline: A Q&A with Casino Security Consultant Alan Zajic

Zajic addresses advantage gambling, CCTV operator management and the issue of RFID tags in casino chips

I think their marketing departments need to be well informed. I think their security surveillance and floor personnel all need to be educated in the process and what exactly the property intends to do with it so that they can communicate it to the customers. If you educate and train your employees, they automatically train the customers in that regard, but if you don't have any training on it, or any education of your staff of what it's there for, they're going to make their own assumptions and communicate it to the public.

Just a few weeks ago there was a standoff with an armed man at Harrah's in Vegas. Three floors of the hotel were evacuated and the suspect was taken into custody six hours later. The casino never closed. From what we've heard, it sounds like they coordinated a pretty effective emergency response. How do you recommend casinos stay prepared for instances such as this?

Harrah's is a very progressive company and I personally know the security director at Harrah's in Las Vegas where it occurred. He's very capable and he's an excellent security director. It takes good management to manage a program. From a crisis angle, every property must have a crisis management program that includes everything that you could possibly think of-and then some-that can occur on your property, or that's ever occurred on a casino property, and have a basic contingency plan for it.

In that situation you had two people inside of a room that was rented, so it was inside a domicile where this incident started, and then it progressed and became a major issue. I find it interesting that in the news articles, the biggest push was the public was inconvenienced because they'd been sent to another room, because they'd been evacuated. And to me that's one of the best compliments in the world that the security was effective.

Your emergency plans have to take into consideration accidental or intentional food poisoning, air conditioning systems, hurricanes, floods, forest fires, closed roads, power shortages such as the Bellagio had to go through-these are all emergency operations so you have to be prepared, and then you have to make sure your staffs are in compliance with what they call the incident command system, that the law enforcement and fire departments are going to be responding under. They need to make sure they actually have a written plan that says these are the contingencies, if we have to evacuate this is how we do it, if we have a shooting in a casino-and we know that there are going to be shootings in casinos since there have been a couple dozen in the last 10 years-all the way through to major flooding like we experienced in the LA market.

You can't be responsible for thousands of people without preparing for these kinds of emergencies. And the disaster recovery has to be just as intense, because once your situation is done, you have to get immediately-if not during the incident-back on track. If your sprinklers go off because you've had a minor fire and it wets half of your casino, you've got to be back up and running, so you have to have plastic available to staff to cover certain areas. There are all kinds of things that a contingency plan should include. And there are a lot of crisis consultants who will come into your property to help train you in these issues.