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Hardening the Target in an Unconventional Environment

In the aftermath of the horrific shooting at the Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas on October 1, hotel operators, cinema and restaurant managers as well as security personnel assigned to outdoor venues, such as parks, sports arenas or car racing events have logically asked themselves what can be done to harden the target.  Specifically, what reliable measures can they take to make the venue and the public safer and more resilient to a mass shooting, bombing or other criminal or terrorist event?   The implications of an attack on a soft target are huge, both in terms of human casualties and the emotional trauma that a successful attack causes.

We’ve been here before.  We’ve had terrorist attacks or mass shootings involving aircraft, skyscrapers, military bases and houses of worship.  Each event spurs honest conversation on enhancing security.  But a successful attack on a soft target, like a school or hotel, incurs more consternation among the public than one on a military installation or government office.  Both have tragic consequences, but security protocols at each are very different and are a function of the known or assumed threat that the particular location faces.  What is the formula?  How do we know what the threat is?  From where do we get reliable intelligence?  Once we have the intel, how do we use it in a proactive manner?

There are no easy answers.  Truth is, hardening a venue-making it less attractive to a would-be terrorist-is a continual process that requires a combination of robust physical security measures as well as a reliable stream of intelligence, together with analysis that puts the intel into proper context.  Armed with this information, the security professional can take proactive measures designed to enhance venue safety and security.  Intelligence is the crucial first step from which all other measures flow.

Those traditional threats for which hotel security personnel have trained for decades-intruders, assault, theft of merchandise or money, organized crime infiltration of casinos and money laundering-are relatively easy to address when compared with the monumental responsibility of preventing a terrorist attack or a mass casualty shooting on premises.  It is precisely this asymmetric threat of the “active shooter” that needs to be addressed.  We’ll take a more through look at it in our next installment.