At the Frontline: Woodruff Arts Center Security Director Tim Giles

Giles discusses access control and security management measures for Atlanta's sprawling arts complex


He was very knowledgeable about the technology and made sure they had cameras and card readers and sensors and all the different technologies put in place. They don’t have some of the latest technology—for example, there’s no bio technology in place—and I’m going to be looking at that down the road. And we don’t really have any video analysis in place, but I think we need to look at that too for the museum.

What made the Woodruff Arts Center migrate from single building security to a campus-wide security program?

The primary driver was emergency planning and crisis management. They really hadn’t had a campus-wide focus on those issues, and when they started looking at those issues they recognized they also didn’t really have a campus-wide focus on security.

The center not only includes multiple buildings, those buildings are all multi-use. You’ve got several different types of public and internal performances and activities going at all times, which must make emergency planning complicated and challenging. How do you focus your efforts to cover all the possibilities?

We have six different divisions that operate between the theater, the symphony, the High Museum, the main division—which is called the Woodruff Arts Center Administrative Division, which runs our campus—as well as the youth educational division. The other division was the Atlanta College of Art, but as I said we’ve now closed that down. So the primary focus was to make certain we have a good understanding of each division’s needs, because they vary considerably, and at the same time try to pull them together in a cohesive response program.

You do have to do different things. In the memorial arts building in certain kinds of emergencies you would just evacuate the building, whereas in the High Museum you would want to take some steps first to do some protection of the artwork before you evacuated the building, unless it was life threatening. So we do have to do different focuses on how we handle and respond to emergencies.

I’m also trying to make sure we do a much better job of pre-planning and doing some scenario testing, so that people have a good feel for when you do have different kinds of emergencies, how that’s going to roll out.

Here in Midtown we have a great group called the Midtown Alliance, which has a group working for them called Midtown Blue, which is basically ex-police officers that are retired, but also reserve officers, so they still have police powers. They work with us very closely on all those kinds of issues as well. For instance, you may remember back in November of last year, Atlanta did a terrorist exercise at one of the MARTA stations. Well, that MARTA station was in Midtown. And so Midtown Blue was involved in that, and they also involved a number of businesses including us, so we saw how it played out. We actually played a role interacting with them and got information fed to us so that we knew what was going on. They set up what we call a business operations center for that event, just like you might set up an emergency operations center. So we’re trying to work with them to make sure we’re well coordinated with the city in any kind of major disaster that might happen.

Your campus spreads through Midtown and parts of Downtown Atlanta. What types of challenges does this type of widespread, multi-building camps present?

One of the situations I had in the past was that most of those remote buildings were not tied back on all the different systems. We would get fire alarms from the buildings, but not much else. For instance, we have the 14th Street Playhouse, which is down on 14th and Juniper. We have three stages in there, and there are plays going on all the time, and while we always had a security officer posted down there when there were events, we actually had no security systems down there at all.