Securing the Area: Planning for Advance Security Sweeps

Updated: March 2, 2015

A few weeks ago, President of the Republic of Panama Juan Carlos Varela and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral James “Sandy” Winnefeld participated in the Georgia Tech Advisory Board meeting. Special agents for each individual met with me separately to conduct an advance security sweep. While they differed in length (45 minutes compared to three hours), I encountered similar questions and expectations from each principal’s staff. I compiled a list of tips I learned throughout the week to help anyone working with an advance security team.

Always involve GTPD

Our first rule of thumb for any event is to inform Georgia Tech Police Department (GTPD), so this should be an easy tip. However, once you believe a high-profile guest will attend your event, GTPD will also begin planning their schedules to ensure the K-9 unit is available for sweeps, as well as other needed security protection. While you are the expert for your event, GTPD is our expert for security questions and will coordinate a security plan with your guest’s security team.

Provide agents with event details/materials

If possible, provide the visiting security team with as many details as possible prior to your advance security sweep. A list of possible documents may include: contact sheet with important numbers for event staff, run of show, campus map highlighting event locations, and layouts of each building the VIP may visit. By sending the information in advance, the visiting security team can grasp a broader picture of the event and craft specific questions for your meeting.

Anticipate last-minute requests

Advance security sweeps almost always happen a day or two before the event (or perhaps even the event day itself) and are usually scheduled less than 24 hours in advance. If you’re like me, that’s right during the time you are preparing other last-minute details. Remember to anticipate this in your schedule and delegate tasks to other team members while you are on the sweep, if possible. Remember, too, that the security team will most likely ask for items that may or may not be within your control, which leads me to…

Collaborate with campus partners

President Varela’s and Admiral Winnefeld’s visits were successful, but only because colleagues in GTPD, Athletics, Development, Parking and Transportation Services, and countless others created conditions to ensure success. When planning your walk-through, always include as many of the event venue’s staff or other pertinent campus partners in the process. These individuals can answer more detailed questions and provide solutions to issues immediately, freeing you from a litany of follow-up emails.