Leadership / 12.19.17
In an Era of Uncertainty at Events, Melanie Pearlman Is Dedicated to Keeping Fans Safe
Melanie Pearlman, executive director of the Counterterrorism Education Learning Lab (CELL) for the past nine years, is the opening keynote speaker at INTIX's 39th Annual Conference & Exhibition. The three-day event will take place in Baltimore in January, where Pearlman will speak on “Securing Our Sporting and Entertainment Venues.”
We recently sat down with Pearlman for a sneak preview of her keynote speech at the event and to talk through a topic at the forefront of the event and entertainment industry right now.
INTIX: Can you give us a brief background of The CELL and why it was founded?
MELANIE PEARLMAN: The CELL is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that educates the community on how to enhance public safety. It was created shortly after 9/11 to address the threat of terrorism and to figure out ways in which individuals and law enforcement could partner together to prevent these atrocities from happening.
INTIX: How does The CELL relate to the entertainment industry?
MP: The CELL has public safety training called the Community Awareness Program. We work with the entertainment industry to customize that training for a specific event or venue. In doing so, we can train ticket takers, vendors, volunteers, etc. to help be the eyes and ears and identify any suspicious behavior to try and prevent disruptions or possible criminal activity from happening.
INTIX: As an industry, we’re very aware of recent tragedies and threats to live event attendees. How will your keynote at INTIX 2018 help address concerns that entertainment and ticketing professionals may have at this time?
MP: I will discuss how to create a safe environment while enhancing the safety of the respective event and doing it in such a way that the message is empowering and makes the customer feel safe and secure. I think there’s a reality unfortunately with the incidents that we’re seeing, not only here in the United States but around the world, of the threats that the entertainment industry faces. We provide a solution that ultimately addresses a way to help enhance the safety and security of those particular events.
INTIX: Why is it important for venues to be more vigilant today than, say, even a year ago at this time?
MP: I think it’s imperative. Unfortunately, the threat of the different types of groups that would try and disrupt or throw attention to their respective message, they’ve learned that it’s not just hard targets but, unfortunately, soft targets such as these events that are vulnerable. We’ve seen it happen throughout Europe, we’ve seen it happen here in the United States, and it’s becoming more prevalent. It’s imperative and incumbent on venues and hosts of these events to take some responsibility and figure out ways that are cost effective, customer oriented and partner with public safety. That’s what this presentation is about, and that’s ultimately the mission that The CELL hopes to accomplish.
INTIX: What can entertainment industry professionals do to ensure guests, staff and performers feel both welcome and safe?
MP: That’s exactly what we strive to accomplish – safety for everyone involved in an event. It really empowers all the people that are part of the event staff, the vendors and the respective public safety apparatus to be consistent with the message of what suspicious activity they should be looking for, what areas seem to be most vulnerable and how and who to communicate a problem to when they actually happen. That’s the key. Do it in a way that is accessible, but doesn’t create barriers to entry for people coming into the venues.
INTIX: What are some of the warning signs that venue professionals should be looking for before, during or after a live event?
MP: One is information gathering. If an individual starts asking curious questions about security schedules, or when mass crowds are gathering and what the ingress and egress looks like, I think those are very pointed questions in which public safety should be alerted right away. These tests of security, meaning when an individual before an event is trying to get access into gates that do not offer access to the public, or finding ways to ultimately impersonate a vendor or event staff to get access into places where they shouldn’t be, are all warning signs of suspicious behavior and should be reported immediately.
INTIX: What types of partnerships should venues be making in their local communities?
MP: First is most obviously with the police department, fire department and all the emergency medical apparatus – this is critical. Second, the vendors they work with to make sure they also have some sort of training so the vendor staff are safe and non-threatening. This also opens communication for vendors be on the lookout for and report incidents and suspicious behavior. Number three, I really think it is important for entertainment industry venues and hosts to make sure they have a clear communication channel with the respective mayor’s office, city councilor’s office or whoever is ultimately making judgement calls should something happen and know what to do about it.
Do your teams know what to do if confronted with a threat to themselves, your audience or venue? Attend the session "Run, Hide, Fight: Preparing for and Reacting to an Active Shooter Incident" led by Bryan Gray, protective security advisor for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, at the INTIX 40th Annual Conference in Texas on Jan. 29-31, 2019.
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Tags: Security , INTIX 2018