Nearly three million people visit Chicago’s McCormick Place each year, most of them as attendees or exhibitors at one of the hundreds of meetings and conventions hosted by the facility. Comprised of three enormous buildings containing 112 meeting rooms and more than 2.2 million square feet of exhibit halls, McCormick Place is one of the largest convention centers in the world – and it is about to get much bigger.
This summer, a new building, McCormick Place West, will open adding 470,000 square feet of exhibit space and 250,000 square feet of meeting space, which includes a 100,000 square foot ballroom. Restaurants, cafes and bars are located throughout the complex, which is also linked by a concourse to the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place hotel.
A NECESSARY SOLUTION
The Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority (MPEA) owns and manages the huge facility. Tom Dorgan, security manager for MPEA, has the important task of securing McCormick Place. In 2006, he discovered a new tool that has made this job easier – the Segway Personal Transporter (PT).
“Last summer, our director noticed that the Chicago Police Department was using Segway PTs to patrol Navy Pier, another facility owned and operated by the MPEA,” said Dorgan. “He knew the police at O’Hare Airport have been using them for years, and had also seen the fire department paramedic teams patrolling downtown on them. He said there was no reason why the same strategy wouldn’t work for McCormick Place. So in June 2006, MPEA purchased a unit from the dealer here in Chicago.”
Dorgan initially trained six of his security officers to use the transport units, and put the unit to work patrolling the interior common areas and walkways of the East, North and South Buildings of McCormick Place. During convention times, the PT is also used to respond to emergencies and to conduct door checks when the buildings are locked at night. According to Dorgan, officers using the personal transport unit immediately became more productive.
“We found that the PT was beneficial in a number of ways,” said Dorgan. “First, it was a time-saver for the officers who previously patrolled on foot and enabled them to cover their routes faster. Second, it enabled them to respond much more quickly to emergencies. In the past, one of our foot patrol officers in the East Building would have had to run three-fourths of a mile to get to a situation on the west side of our South Building. Not only did this take a lot of time, but the officer would also arrive on the scene out of breath. Now, the personal transport unit enables the officer to get there in half the time.”
The MPEA created a report that documents the timesaving benefits. There are now 24 officers trained to use the Segway PTs and there are plans to increase this number in the coming year.
“Our officers volunteer for training on the unit, and most of them adapt to it very quickly,” said Dorgan. “Each officer watches the safety video provided. Then we take them out in the common areas of the complex to show them how to use it in the patrol environment. The officers who use the units find it really helps them in accomplishing their work.”
The transport unit has also proven to be a valuable public relations tool. Customers and visitors to McCormick Place have reacted very positively to the Segways and often approach security officers to inquire about their use. Seeing officers patrolling McCormick Place on PTs demonstrates to visitors that the MPEA is committed to ensuring their safety. In anticipation of the opening of the McCormick Place West Building, the MPEA recently ordered three additional units equipped with new steering technology, which will give Dorgan comprehensive security coverage of that new facility.
“We have calculated that one unit produces a manpower savings of a man and one half – or at least $50,000 to $60,000 dollars per year per unit,” said Dorgan. “That’s a great return on our investment. The new West Building is nearly three blocks long and one block wide, and these new units are just what we need.”