5 strategies to keep political events under control

Election season in the U.S., which sometimes feels interminable, is now coming to a head. The Republican National Convention is taking place in a few weeks in Cleveland, and the Democratic National Convention will follow not long after in Philadelphia. Safety is top of mind at these and countless other political events hosted by hotels and convention centers around the country. Here are five tips to make sure your hotel is ready.

1. Keep Lines of Communication Open

The Clintons and Trumps of this world bring with them an army of their own security, and it’s a hotel’s job to figure out where their place is in the mix. According to Joshua Williams, director of risk management at Crescent Hotels & Resorts, having long lead times before an event takes place is integral to making this a smooth process.

“Instead of figuring out what needs to be done, hotels will be involved with coordination and communication,” Williams said. “It’s a more facilitative role where you try to fit into the puzzle. These attendees have more resources for security, but that’s because they also have more trouble.”

2. Know the Numbers

Every event space has a limit to the number of attendees it can hold before the difficulty of policing it spirals out of control. Williams said that a property may have be experienced with large groups of 5,000 to 7,000 people, but there is a big difference in safety planning when a hotel is expecting 5,000 and 7,000 show up.
“Be prepared for whoever you are working with to upgrade their security, and then provide your own,” Williams said. “A proactive nature is always best.

The Westin Portland (Maine) Harborview was host to Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump rallies, held only a week apart.
The Westin Portland (Maine) Harborview was host to Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump rallies, held only a week apart.

3. Be Ready To Act 

“We’re bipartisan,” said Gerry Chase, president and COO of New Castle Hotels & Resorts. “We are open to all interests. But not everyone is.” Chase is referring to two separate events for Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump that were held in the Westin Portland (Maine) Harborview within a week of each other in March, drawing two distinct crowds.

“We’ve had presidents and VPs in our hotels over many decades, and a lot of the process has to do with taking the lead with who is in charge,” Chase said. “Find that out, be visible and react to changes as they occur because nothing ever goes exactly according to plan.”

4. Control Entrances and Exits 

“It can be difficult with fire and safety codes, but you don’t want every door into a convention space to open,” Williams said. “People will complain, but controlling those doors allows you to monitor who is moving around, and it also forces people to be aware of their surroundings and self-police the crowd.”

5. Practice 

Nothing is a substitute for experience. According to Chase, a property’s GM needs to remain calm and engaged at all times during a large event, and most of all they should not turn their business over to security personnel.

“It’s a privilege,” Chase said. “Hotels that execute well will be the chosen property for these events in the future. But if they don’t practice, it will become a disaster.”