NATO came to Chicago in May 2012, and security professionals can’t stop talking about it. The media was abuzz during the event, waiting for clashes between protestors and police. But the summit came and went with very little conflict, much to the surprise of spectators and as a point of pride to Chicago security leaders.
As part of the ASIS 2013 Media Tour, in which members of the security industry media are shown around the host city, I met with security directors for some of Chicago's biggest landmarks, all of whom mentioned their pride in how NATO was handled last year. Here are a few examples:
At O’Hare International Airport, a “flawless” show of trust between departments got 200 motorcades and dozens of high-profile dignitaries in and out of the airport without a hitch (excepting a few minor catering issues, apparently). Weekly or twice-weekly meetings with a variety of departments, including the State Department, led up to NATO.
“We didn’t know the exact numbers of planes and countries represented until a few days out,” says Bill Palivos, Deputy Commissioner of Airfield Operations at the City of Chicago Department of Aviation. But preliminary plans were already in place – each airplane had to be able to land, arrive at a greeting station where passengers would disembark and board a motorcade, and then have the planes shuttled back to a guarded area. It sounds like a riddle or puzzle, and it was: Each plane had to have a clear path to leave – no aircraft could be blocked in. According to Palivos, $50,000 and many mapped plans later, O’Hare had a solid pattern that could handle traffic from not only NATO attendees but those from the G8 Summit (which did not come to Chicago after all).
At the Willis Tower, officials were very concerned about protestors making it up to the Skydeck – the glass-walled observation deck 1,353 feet up. In preparation, XDsystems, the tower’s provider of computer training systems for x-ray machines, prepared a training module for the building’s security officers. The module showed examples of what protest props would look like hidden in backpacks or bags going through an x-ray machine, including cans of spray paint, sticks or signs.
Through this program, each security officer goes through 25-30 minutes of training each week to refresh their memory on what is out of the norm in an x-ray machine.