Huntington Place Unveils Enhanced Public Safety and Security Measures to Keep Event Guests Safe

November 21, 2022

Like many major convention centers across the U.S., Huntington Place is making public safety and security a top priority. On Nov. 4, the downtown Detroit venue rolled out its enhanced public safety and security measures with an all-staff Venue Safety and Security Training offered by the International Association of Venue Managers (IAVM), which provides innovative safety and security guidelines and training to assist venues and their executive teams in managing and prioritizing the protection of all life safety and physical assets. 

“Safety is one of the top concerns for meeting planners and attendees,” said Karen Totaro, general manager for Huntington Place/ASM Global. “Combining local, state and national security efforts in a way that makes our clients feel safe and cared for will be instrumental to our future.”

IAVM’s Introduction to Venue Safety and Security training course equips leadership, event safety and security staff, guest services teams and meeting planners and organizers with the necessary know-how to effectively protect their respective facilities. Developed by seasoned event safety and security professionals, this one-day event provides participants with an action plan outline, as well as creative and innovative strategies that secure all facilities, engage front-line teams and provide the best in guest services and customer experience.

Mark Herrera, Marlon Wilson and Charles Burns

Conducted by IAVM Director of Safety and Security Mark Herrera, who oversees the organization’s Academy for Venue Safety and Security, the one-day training included all teams and leadership and focused on securing all events at the convention center. Marlon Wilson, who began his role as director of public safety at Huntington Place in October and boasts a longstanding law enforcement background, worked with Herrera to train staff on the latest safety and security protocols for the venue. Charles Burns, ASM Global vice president–chief security officer, also participated in the Nov. 4 event.

“We are thrilled to coordinate these national programs and agencies in our local public safety protocols,” Totaro said. “With Marlon having an extensive background in local law enforcement and knowledge of our community, and Mark’s expertise in venue security, it is the right fit for our team’s efforts. Public safety is continually front and center of our guest experience in Huntington Place.”

The training course covered the following: 

  • Training for venue frontline leadership, staff and neighboring venue security execs
  • Leadership understanding today’s challenges in leading teams and managing successful outcomes
  • Bridging generational gaps, team engagement to enhance security postures
  • What constitutes a heightened level of awareness
  • Risk factors of individuals presenting possible threat, how to identify and respond
  • Mental instability and threat ideology, facility/event vulnerability
  • Technology capabilities: weapons detection; autonomous response; hostile vehicle mitigation
  • Diffusing non-compliance
  • Meeting expectations
  • Security baselines facility/event
  • Future security trends

According to Herrera, there has been a growing demand for guidance related to security issues in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. He has conducted more than 350 training sessions for leadership and frontline teams on Behavioral Indication and Risk Mitigation through Guest Service Interjection, which is training that emphasizes developing teams capable of providing exceptional focus, performance and control in extreme situations.

Additionally, convention centers across the country are coming out of the COVID pandemic with changed customer expectations for service delivery and environmental hygiene. Thus, public safety departments have broadened their reach to not only include crisis communications, crowd control and policing strategy, but also guest experience and customer service. 

“Facilities such as Huntington Place under the direction of General Manager Karen Totaro pride themselves on creating better experiences within the venue industry inclusive of all facilities that are more important now than ever before,” Herrera said. “Training teams to forecast and expect those unexpected challenges in the future provides them with the tools to mitigate the risks our world delivers daily.”

Adding to all of those challenges were the midterm elections, which have been the focus of increasing anxiety for voters and election officials in the U.S. With Huntington Place serving as a ballot counting center for Detroit, making sure enhanced safety and security measures were set in place for the Nov. 8 Michigan elections was crucial, so the venue’s public safety team worked with an extensive security task force in Detroit all year to prepare. 

According to Huntington Place officials, the FBI, Homeland Security, all state and local law enforcement agencies, the Michigan Secretary of State, the Detroit Department of Elections and the Downtown Detroit Partnership Security Task Force worked cooperatively as a Security Response Team and central on-site command to share information and strategies. 

“Our goal is to ensure the best security protocols are in place and always improve,” Wilson said. “What happened in the past informs our future protocols. After this election, we will look back again and put improved enhancements in place for future events.”

For those venues in the process of tightening their safety and security protocols, Huntington safety and security officials offer the following tips:

  • Train staff in security protocol and awareness
  • Continually revisit best practices with other venues
  • Continually look to future trends in safety and security
  • Collaborate with surrounding venues
  • Establish security command in venue with local, state and federal agencies with levels of threat response to activate as necessary

Huntington Place trainees

“Safety and security are such basic needs, and we as a venue operator not only want to meet that need but [also] exceed expectations,” Totaro said. “We do this to establish trust in knowing at Huntington Place the team will do all they can to keep clients, attendees and employees secure.”

Along with its Academy for Venue Safety and Security training events, IAVM provides education, resources, advocacy and certification to event industry professionals and venue managers. To learn more, go here.  


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