Hip Hip Philadelphia

For the past few years, prior to ASIS, members of the media have assembled by invitation in the city where the convention would be held. This year, Philadelphia was home to a few editors for three days.

ASIS officials set up security tours and visits throughout the city that are beyond your wildest imagination. Most of the time, the city’s visitors and convention bureau staff participate, as well as the local ASIS chapter. Philadelphia is a very cool place.

If you haven’t made plans to attend ASIS 2012 in Philly, I urge you not only to participate in the conference and exhibits but also to take in the sights, sounds and smells in this marvelous metropolis.

“We are thrilled to welcome the ASIS convention to Philadelphia in September,” said Jack Ferguson, president and CEO of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau. “This convention is proof why the Pennsylvania Convention Center expansion was vital to Philadelphia’s economic development because without the expanded center, ASIS couldn’t meet here.”

Ferguson also said that ASIS alone will have a $50 million impact to the city during the week-long event. The bureau expects about 25,000 visitors and conference attendees, requiring 35,000 hotel rooms. That also includes a lot of Philly cheese steak sandwiches.

The City Center District (CCD), where the convention center stands, was designated a special district in 1991 to spur growth in the area, and the convention center recently completed a renovation of the facility to now include 528,000 square feet of space. It is a gorgeous facility.

The district is serious about security and has employed community service representatives who work alongside the Philadelphia Police Department (PPD), including shift roll calls. Together, they are making the downtown area cleaner and safer for what is becoming a burgeoning residential base. CCD has changed the physical footprint by adding sidewalks, landscaping and additional lighting.

You will see all of this and more during ASIS 2012.

Our tour and travels took our group to the Constitution Center, which is very near the convention center and well worth two hours of your time. It just happens to be the 225th anniversary of the Constitution, of which members of Congress and the White House should take note.

The center is frequently used for gatherings and dignitary visits. Security is handled by Sherman Hopkins, who always works hand-in-hand with such agencies as PPD, U.S. Marshals, Secret Service, private security and many more agency security teams.

“Our mission is to protect visitors and employees who might rent the facility for an event,” Hopkins said.

The facility is part of the National Park Service and has more than 100 cameras monitoring the facility and grounds at the command center.

Our tour continued to the Comcast Center. Both Comcast and the property owner, Liberty Property Trust, have onsite security directors, and both command centers are linked by a “Red Phone.” The 58-story office tower is part of the city skyline and was the first skyscraper to be built after 9/11.

Following the events of 9/11, building architects and engineers reworked their plans to make the building safer and more secure for workers. The building is built around a center core into which, if necessary, all workers in the building, about 4,000, could be shepherded for safety and security. The core is built with three-and-a-half foot thick concrete walls and is fireproofed. Engineers also ensured that the building has redundant power, fire alarms and communications. Because the building is used 24/7, eight annual drills are planned where people in the building experience a “what to do” in case of emergency.

Four other tours took us to the Philadelphia Children’s Hospital, the Wells Fargo Center, the U.S. Postal Facility and the Philadelphia Federal Reserve.

With more than 12,000 employees, the hospital sees more than 1.19 million outpatients per year, and it has installed IP video technology to ensure safety and security of staff, patients and visitors. The facility has 74 security officers on staff in a very open environment, along with 1,600 card readers in place and more than 630 cameras. Cameras are not near medical procedures, respecting the patient’s privacy. At the Wells Fargo Center, cameras are in place to help control outbound traffic after an event; inside the venue, there are 128 suites that have card access.

At the Federal Reserve Bank, security is ever present. Even though I was standing behind a Plexiglas partition, I’m still amazed that I was that close to $2 million. One of the takeaways I learned from security staff there was in a single comment, “bank robbers are generally not very smart people.”

The Philadelphia Post Office handles half of the worldwide mail, and that could be why security is on the front burner when the organization begins planning or retrofitting an existing facility. In fact, any building under construction must meet the government’s USPS RE-5 building and site security requirements.

The ASIS staff put together one heck of a security tour in Philadelphia, and I’m looking forward to the return in September.

This article originally appeared in the Security Products Magazine - July 2012 issue of Security Today.

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