Thushan Rajapaksa from StaffPro and Danielle Eduardo from Staples Center, Los Angeles, served as panel moderators during IAVM's Southern California Chapter VII Meeting at Club Nokia in Los Angeles. They're seen here with meeting co-planner Danny Spitzer from UC Irvine. (VT Photo)

REPORTING FROM L.A. — The bombing attack at the Boston Marathon may have been a world away, but the deadly terrorist strike on April 15 was on the minds of venue managers who came together Wednesday for the IAVM Chapter 7 Meeting at Club Nokia in Los Angeles.

Staples Center in Los Angeles held a basketball game the day after the bombing and Director of Security David Born said representatives from LAPD deployed bomb sniffing dogs and additional motorcycle units for the event. Early media reports erroneously indicated the bombs in Boston could have been placed in a trash receptacle, and Born said his team “looked at the location of trash receptacles – many were right outside doors and in areas where people gather. We redeployed them and moved them closer to the street where they were much more visible to police patrols.”

The bombings have changed the way security and venue professionals assess threats, both known and unknown, said Thushan Rajapaksa, VP at StaffPro which handles security for megaevents like Coachella in Indio, Calif., and the Electric Daisy Carnival of Las Vegas.

“We as an industry cannot rest – we’ve got to run full speed ahead when it comes to crisis management,” he said.

Following several directives from the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI, venues in major markets like Southern California are beginning to unify their emergency response plans.

Early this year, Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., switched from an in-house emergency plan to a federally-recommended version that incorporates a two-pronged approach to crisis management.

“We now utitlize two teams — one that handles planning and emergency preparedness and another that focuses on incident response,” said Quinn Mackin, the arena’s director of events. “Our Incident Response Team only goes live when an emergency happens and that team's job ends when the emergency ends.”

In any emergency situation, “everyone needs to know who’s making the call,” Rajapaksa said. “When I work with other buildings, we talk about the importance of alignment, and how everyone's role aligns, especially when working with multiple agencies.”

Macken said Honda Center has also updated its communications strategy with carefully crafted scripts for announcers to read in different situations, along with integrated videos from its center-hung scoreboard, special LED boards messaging and exterior messaging on their outdoor speaker system.

“On top of bullhorns, radios and screaming, you should have a comprehensive communications plan,” Macken said.

The same goes for social media — “you can’t disappear completely in a crisis situation,” said Merit Tully, director of Media and Communications at Honda Center, “You need to be present and you need to engage.”

Moderating of comments and online sentiment should begin before an emergency erupts — conversations during live events on Twitter and Facebook have grown exponentially in the past five years and often Public Relations departments monitor communication lines for negative comments on everything from customer service to view obstruction.

“It’s okay to respond publicly because that makes the venue look responsive,” said Cara Vanderhook, director, Communications & Social Media for Staples Center & Nokia Theatre. “People like to see that a representative from the venue is on top of it and handling the issue.”
 

Interviewed for this article: Cara Vanderhook and David Born, (213) 742-7273; Merit Tully and Quinn Mackin, (714) 704-2400; Thushan Rajapaksa, (714) 230-7223