Donald Paisant: Security with a Smile
As Chief of Public Safety for SMG Managed Facilities in New Orleans, Donald Paisant is responsible for all the security on a large campus that includes the Mercedes Benz Superdome, the Smoothie King Center and Champions Square. One of SMG’s security assets is an armed public safety security force. “These people are in police-type uniforms and are commissioned by the superintendent of police of the New Orleans Police Department,” says Paisant. “They have arrest powers on our campus while they’re working, similar to a college campus police force. The NOPD will back us up and do any follow-up investigations.”
This force is a 24/7 operation and consists of 30 people over three watches. On event days, Paisant has a pool of 150 part-time commissioned armed officers to choose from, depending on staffing needs. He is also in charge of non-armed, in-house security guards, of which there are around 650, and two control centers located in the Superdome and the Smoothie King Center.
The campus itself is actually owned by the state of Louisiana, which has a board called the Louisiana Stadium Expedition District (LSED). SMG is a private company that manages public facilities and is hired by LSED to run sports venues to provide everything from security to housekeeping to field crew personnel. “We run it all, book the talent, book the events and work with the clients,” Paisant says.
Beyond the basic mission of being accountable for the safety and security of the facilities’ guests, clients and team members, the security team is “dedicated to providing a high-quality experience, along with a proactive security program,” says Paisant. Thanks to his background in the hospitality industry, Paisant understands the importance of good customer service. “If we don’t have customers, we don’t have jobs,” he says, “so we drill in the customer service aspect. One of the things we do in our training is to get our officers to understand that you can still be nice and get your job done.”
Maintaining a visible presence and making sure there’s good lighting and proper signage are typical risk management issues Paisant focuses on, along with hot topic items such as civil unrest. “Those are concerns for security professionals, and we’re always looking for ways to combat them,” he says..
The C-suite at SMG considers security to be a top priority. “It’s viewed by our C-suite that without a secure place, we’re not going to have people come here, and they’re very understanding and supportive,” he says. They are also very willing to upgrade technology and equipment and look for ways to improve the security system. Clients consistently give the department commendations and accolades, as well.
Paisant is rightfully proud of his security program. “When people come to our events, it’s almost like security is an afterthought to them. It’s expected. They don’t have to look over their shoulders to make sure someone isn’t going to assault or harass them,” he says. “I think our overall security program puts our guests at ease.” In fact, on any given event day, Paisant believes his area is one of the safest places in New Orleans strictly due to all the security assets utilized.
The security department must be doing something right – in 2014, the Smoothie King Center was nominated by the NBA and was awarded the Facility Merit Award at the NCS4 conference. The team has also scored a 1, the highest possible score, for the past four years in the NFL’s annual audit of best practices at the Superdome.
In an effort to motivate his security staff, one of Paisant’s favorite practices is to test the system. “The greatest plans are great on paper, but if we don’t test our systems, we don’t really know if they’re working,” he says. On game days, he has operatives, mostly from the hotel industry, come in and try to pay his staff off or generally sweet talk officers into letting them go places they shouldn’t. He also uses undercover police officers to try to get guns and knives inside the screening checkpoints. Paisant then follows up with employees and rewards those who do their job well. “The staff is a lot more alert when they know they’re being tested,” Paisant says.
- Annual Revenue: $84 Million
- Security Budget: $1.75 Million
- Active Shooter
- Security Screening