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A Culture of Safety

Security & safety is the way of life at facilities

As convention centers expand their square footage and host more events, securing the venue and ensuring safety has become a top concern for venue management.

Their goal is to avoid unexpected attacks, such as the shooting that occurred during an art exhibition at Curtis Culwell Center in Garland, Texas, on May 3, 2015. The two-person rampage was sparked by controversial Prophet Muhammad illustrations, which are prohibited in Islam. The incident led to Curtis Culwell Center tightening its security measures for events thereafter.

In-house security guards monitor George R. Brown Convention Center 24/7.
In-house security guards monitor George R. Brown Convention Center 24/7.

“Security and safety of guests is the No.1 priority for all facilities. It’s not just something we talk about — It’s the culture. Safety and security is part of what we do to make every event successful,” stated David Osterhout, director of operations, George R. Brown Convention Center, Houston First.

As part of security measures, facility managers often inform their staff of venue procedures in case of emergency, install state-of-the-art surveillance equipment and contract in-house security companies to be their eyes, ears and enforcement.

Many venue managers have demonstrated with their hiring decisions that the level of service and presence provided by experienced security guards can’t be mimicked by the un-uniformed average Joe.

Houston First, manager of the George R. Brown Convention Center (GRBCC) in Texas, appointed Andy Frain Services as the venue’s in-house security company more than a year ago. The security company’s specializations in events, sports and entertainment, commercial and transportation demonstrated it could handle the duties required at GRBCC as its surroundings undergo a transformation that’s expected to be complete by fall 2016.

An Andy Frain Services guard readies for his patrol.
An Andy Frain Services guard readies for his patrol.

For 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Andy Frain Services guards all receiving points, docks and personnel entrances at GRBCC. They also watch for incoming visitors or workers, investigate incidents or accidents, and assist with emergencies.

“Andy Frain Services is truly one of the most thorough security companies we have worked with,” added Osterhout. The company demonstrates this aptitude when collaborating with outside security firms hired by show organizers.

After organizers lease space at GRBCC, they must choose a security company licensed by the Texas State Private Security Bureau to provide show security. Andy Frain Services assists and informs these preferred security companies of protocols in place at GRBCC. The company also provides back-up assistance in case of show floor emergencies, such as slips and falls.

“If someone leases an exhibit hall, their show security is in charge of what happens with that hall, such as who can enter or exit. If an incident occurs inside the hall, the show security is required to investigate and write a report. Our [in-house] security could be involved, but we want the outside company to be responsible for keeping the show safe,” said Osterhout.

GRBCC provides a preferred vendor list of security companies. Out-of-state or international show organizers can also work with a security coordinator who could help them find a licensed security company in Texas.

Securing the venue also requires Andy Frain Services personnel to monitor who is or isn’t allowed to work within GRBCC as well as emphasize what others can and can’t bring inside the building.

Onsite security check point
Onsite security check point

An onsite security checkpoint is where contractors must show their Exhibition Services & Contractors Association (ESCA) badges and go through metal detectors.

“Contractors check their staff in, so contractors are the first to police their own employees. If they left [their ESCA badge] at home or are in the process of applying for a badge, we can issue a temporary badge for that day,” commented Osterhout.

The in-house security company also makes sure contractors and other visitors aren’t in unauthorized areas.

Everyone coming to George R. Brown Convention Center must abide by the same rules: No alcohol, smoking, outside food not approved by the in-house caterer, and perhaps most important of all in light of the shooting at Curtis Culwell Center — no weapons.

Osterhout explained that only individuals licensed in Texas can carry concealed handguns into any government-owned building. On the other hand, he added that high-profile events — such as those involving presidential candidates or sports — are exempt from this rule, and these events often have metal detectors for this reason.

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