After Stephen Paddock killed 58 people and wounded 489 in Las Vegas, the question will be asked: What can be done to mitigate the possibility of another Las Vegas incident?
From what I have observed to date, this incident was premeditated, and was a thoroughly planned event over time. Paddock knew exactly what he was going to do. He amassed a huge cache of high-powered weapons. He maintained a low profile and thought the incident out to the finest detail. And he may not have been on anyone’s radar.
Total and complete security of a “soft target” within a high-target destination is virtually impossible. But we can mitigate by forming a strategy. We all must be aware of our surroundings. Know where the exits are. Locate hard cover. Have a place to meet if separated. I have been retired for eight years, and when I am out for an evening in a public place, I still do not sit with my back to any door.
This incident also is a wake up call for the hospitality industry. Changes to US hospitality security will occur very quickly in an effort to prevent another tragedy. Count on it. As Warren Buffett once said, “It takes 20 years to build up a reputation and less than 5 minutes to destroy it. If you think about that, everyone will do many things differently.” In this instance it took 9-11 minutes. A single act of violence placed hotel guests, the property and the brand reputation at risk. The hotel could be held liable for inadequacies and for criminal acts committed on, or from their property.
The hospitality industry must work to provide safety and security in addition to privacy and comfort of guests. They must examine:
- Event security. Security for all large events at huge venues should be planned and initiated well in advance of the event. Some event planning begins 12+ months prior to the event. And outdoor events obviously present a different security challenge than indoor events. Those planning major and special events should consider hiring a security expert to conduct an unbiased and detailed risk assessment across the entire venue. The assessment will identify risk, suggest how to mitigate the risk and provide comprehensive recommendations to secure the venue. Those planning future events must re-evaluate, update and develop a staggered and multi-layer security process, employing deterrence methods. Consider a venue change away from tall buildings for major/special events. And there must be a heightened sense of security for all soft targets.
- Comprehensive Threat & Risk Assessment. Quantify potential risks. Examine the event location. Determine its size, inside and out. Determine the event’s duration. Conduct crime analysis for the venue. Collect/analyze intelligence regarding any potential threat and the likelihood of an incident. Consider conducting interviews, site surveys and making personal site observations. Liaise with law enforcement.
- Hotel security. Security personnel at all hotels need to immediately initiate a complete review of every aspect of their security apparatus, which includes updating and strengthening each facet of security policies, procedures, hiring and training.
- “Do Not Disturb”. This is a touchy matter for a hospitality legal department and executive management. At any hotel, as long as you do not create a disturbance or there is not an engineering issue, you have a limited expectation of privacy within your room. From published news reports, Paddock placed a Do Not Disburb sign on the door of his room upon check in and left it there for almost four days. Do hotels need to rethink this policy and limit a DND sign to a shorter amount of time? This would also allow housekeeping to apply awareness training and report any concerns to hotel security. A tough issue, but it should at least be discussed and considered.
- Transport. Attention and intense scrutiny is certain to focus upon transportation of so many pieces of luggage and personal effects. How did Paddock transport so many long weapons and thousands of rounds of very heavy ammo, all of the other equipment and 10 large pieces of luggage, into the hotel and up to a room on the 32nd floor? No one observed or believed that it was peculiar to see the same individual struggling with heavy bag(s) into an elevator?
- Security staffing. The hospitality industry must employ sufficient numbers of quality security personnel who are paid fairly and trained in more than just asset protection procedures. Scheduled shifts for security personnel should be staggered (8-4pm, 10-6pm, etc.,) so presence is constant and there is no gap in coverage. Competent and trained security personnel must be employed.
- General Hotel Personnel. All employees must receive specialized awareness training to identify, recognize and report suspicious activity. They must be comfortable reporting suspicious behavior such as a nervous or evasive attitude, a severe concern with privacy, denial of entry to a room, and more. Specific indicators may include: did a guest ask for a specific room, arrive with large amounts of luggage and then refuse bellman assistance, use cash only or a credit card in another person’s name, refuse housekeeping services?
In the future, hotel security may employ (or increase it, if it's already being used):
- Plainclothes Surveillance Operatives. Plainclothes security personnel walking the hotel premises who can maintain a covert posture, who are trained in behavior and situational awareness and who have knowledge of indicators of suspicion and terrorist activity.
- Bag Checks and Luggage Screening. This policy is coming, I believe. And initially, hotels and guests will complain that is is intrusive. Remember the reaction to new airport security after 9/11? Some guests will openly complain this is a violation of Fourth Amendment rights. Both are wrong. The Fourth Amendment does not apply to private locations and businesses: it only applies to governments. Private businesses have the right to require a bag search. If you decline you have the right to take your business elsewhere. Professionals who believe this will not happen, simply do not understand.
- Magnetometers. Many say magnetometers are not a viable solution for hotels. Unfortunately, our open society mandates this necessity. Similar to bag checks and luggage screening, the use of magnetometers and hand-held wands will be used.
Finally, the American public is impatient and very slow to accept increased security procedures that create inconvenience. I see it each time I travel through US airports. Yet, we all need to be patient, because significant changes and increases to current hospitality security measures are coming.
Peter D. Yachmetz is a a 29-year veteran, retired FBI Agent with both private and corporate sector security experience. He is classified as a subject matter expert in Physical Security & Access Control. He is also a trained and experienced Behavioral Assessment Specialist.