Las Vegas Shooting Refocuses Event Security Urgency

The worst-ever American mass shooting shows that meeting planners must prepare -- but cannot stop everything

las vegas skyline

The deadliest mass shooting in American history took place on the Las Vegas Strip Sunday night, when a gunman opened fire from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino targeting concert-goers at the nearby Las Vegas Village venue. The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department has reported at least 515 attendees injured, with 58 dead, after Stephen Craig Paddock, 64, opened fire with rifles at 10:08 p.m. on a concert by country music singer Jason Aldean at the Route 91 Harvest Festival Sunday night. Paddock was killed by police.

The open-air Las Vegas Village concert venue is directly across Las Vegas Boulevard from the Luxor Resort and Casino, which is just north of the Mandalay Bay.

"Our hearts and prayers go out to the victims of last night's shooting, their families, and those still fighting for their lives," said Jim Murren, Chairman and CEO of MGM Resorts International, in a statement Monday. "We are working with law enforcement and will continue to do all we can to help all of those involved."

Rossi Ralenkotter, president and CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA), said, "The thoughts and prayers of all of Las Vegas go out to the victims and their families. This was a horrific, yet isolated, incident. At this time, it is important to allow the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police to conclude their investigation into the incident and to attend to the needs of the victims and their families."

He added, "Las Vegas is a strong community that will work through this tragic incident. We are grateful beyond words to our incomparable law enforcement, first responders and everyone who continues to help victims and their families."

Are Planners Prepared?

The Las Vegas attack is the latest is the latest in a growing number of terrorist incidents and mass killings around the world in the last few years. And while many professional meeting and event planners have always had emergency plans in place, the attacks in what were once considered "safe destinations" throughout the U.S. and Europe have refocused the meetings, incentives, conventions and events (MICE) industry's attention on security issues.

"A heightened focus on safety, security and risk management within our industry is paramount," said Paul Van Deventer, president and CEO of Meeting Professionals International (MPI), in a statement. "This incident reinforces that we must all exercise vigilance for the meetings and events we plan, and MPI is focused on raising awareness, education and preparedness across our industry."

At MPI's World Education Congress in Las Vegas in June, Van Deventer even brought up the possibility of a mass shooting, saying that the industry as a whole was not well prepared. "We have found in our research and it's been corroborated in other research that only half of planners have risk mitigation and catastrophe recovery plans in place," he said. "We can't have that. We need to get them educated in the importance of being prepared. It could be anything from how do you deal with an outdoor party when it's 110 degrees to an active shooter -- just thinking about all the elements that you have to prepare for."

That is why MPI has developed a new Emergency Preparedness for Meetings and Events certificate course in partnership with the National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security at the University of Southern Mississippi, Van Deventer noted.

That said, the Las Vegas attack also brings home the fact that even the best security and planning cannot prevent everything. Las Vegas casino resorts have always had exceptionally high levels of security throughout and around their facilities, but Paddock was shooting from his room on a high floor of a hotel across from Las Vegas Village.

The shooting comes a week before thousands of planners and suppliers from the global MICE industry are scheduled to be in Las Vegas for the industry's premiere trade show, IMEX America. Scheduled to take place at the Sands Expo, Las Vegas convention center attached to The Venetian Las Vegas and The Palazzo Las Vegas resorts, the Oct. 10-12 show and the Oct. 9 Smart Monday education day will take place as scheduled, said Ray Bloom, chairman of the IMEX Group, in a statement.

"We are shocked and saddened at the events that have taken place in Las Vegas over the past 24 hours," Bloom said in a statement. "We can confirm that IMEX America will be going ahead as planned. Both IMEX America and the Sands have very strong security in place, with both visible and plainclothes security teams in the venue and at the tradeshow. Over the coming days we will be working closely with the Sands, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, and the Las Vegas authorities to assess any additional security measures that are needed at this time. We will take their full advice in ensuring the best possible security and safety of our guests."

Other industry groups offered condolences and comments on the incident.

  • David DuBois, President & CEO, International Association of Exhibitions and Events:  "Our prayers and thoughts go out to all those negatively affected by this deplorable act of violence. As an Exhibitions and Events and Hospitality industry we must continue to enhance our safety and security protocols and procedures, and do our best to mitigate these types of tragic incidents."
  • Paul Van Deventer, President and CEO, Meeting Professionals International:  "MPI extends our deepest sympathies to the victims of the recent shooting in Las Vegas and their loved ones. This incident is being described as the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history; the loss of life from this tragedy is truly senseless. Our thoughts and prayers are with the City of Las Vegas and all those impacted, including our partners and members based in the area. Our events planned for IMEX America next week in Las Vegas will continue as scheduled. We will work closely with our partners to ensure the safety and security of attendees, staff, volunteers, vendors and partners.
  • U.S. Travel Association:  "We are deeply saddened by the events in Las Vegas and concerned for the victims, their families, and everyone else who is affected. We have many, many dear friends in Las Vegas and at this moment are focused on learning all we can about their well-being, and extending any and all assistance we are able to offer