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Providing Security and Service with a Smile

Interview | Michael McCannMichael McCann, 56, is vice president for executive protection and technical services for OCS Security, a full-service security-management firm in New York City. McCann, who this month led a conference in Weehawken on security in the hospitality industry, served as chief of security for the United Nations in New York from 1993 to 2004. In that capacity he was responsible for the personal security of the U.N. Secretary-General and senior officials and for the protection of delegates, staff and visitors to U.N. headquarters and to international conferences around the world. His duties at OCS include the protection of high-profile individuals such as diplomats and CEOs. McCann discussed hotel security with Managing Editor John Greenwald.

NJBIZ: Has there been an upswing in hotel security incidents since 9/11?
McCann: I wouldn?t say there?s an upswing. Since September 11 there?s been a major concern in large cities that something else is going to happen, whether it?s directed at high-profile targets like financial venues or other places. And if [terrorists] can?t get near those venues, would they consider hotels or other industries as something that might be targets?

NJBIZ: What role do security personnel have in hotels?
McCann: There are two aspects to it. One is applying the security that you would provide in any industry. But in a hospitality setting the goal is for the security people to function not just as security, but as part of the customer-service team. If they?re in a hospitality setting like a hotel, they?re also assisting the guests and the customers that are coming into the hotel in a very friendly, cordial and professional way. They?re guiding them to where the front desk may be, assisting them with their luggage and looking at their needs.

NJBIZ: What is the security person?s primary role?
McCann: It?s security, and you don?t want them to lose that direction. But while they?re doing that and cognizant of what?s going on in the hotel and who?s coming in, there?s usually an opportunity to do other things that would benefit the hotel.

NJBIZ: What would a security person do if he or she saw something suspicious?
McCann: It would depend on the particular nature of the event. If it was just someone acting suspiciously it would involve observing what?s going on and taking a mental note of it. What is it they?re doing differently, what is drawing your attention to them? And in approaching the person, depending on the circumstances, it would involve starting a conversation by asking if you can help them and seeing if it?s something that can be resolved. Maybe it?s just that the person is in the wrong place or the wrong hotel. If it involves things like a suspicious package, be sure that you?re familiar with the emergency guidelines and the protocol in the hotel. Who do they notify? Who makes the decision about calling the police or the fire department?
NJBIZ: What else should one expect of a well-trained security person?
McCann: What you don?t want is someone who doesn?t address you properly or ignores you. You want someone who?s trained and anticipates your needs. They?re well suited to do it because they?re standing there and observing what?s going on and presenting a very professional image of the hotel or of the client other than a hotel.

NJBIZ: Do security personnel wear uniforms?
McCann: In many hotels they may have a little pin, but usually it?s someone who?s well dressed and is at the desk or in the lobby.

NJBIZ: Who is responsible for ensuring that security programs are in place?
McCann: It?s the responsiblity of the client to make sure that they have a well-articulated plan and they have the training programs in place. And what?s being done in the industry today is for them to train the entire staff so that if you have people at the desk, even though they?re not security, that they?re trained to be aware of things that are different. You?re training the hotel staff, whether it?s the bell people or the people who are cleaning the rooms, so that they?re aware of what the security concerns are and what they should look for that may be outside the normal. And they?re the best people because they?re very familiar with their jobs and if something is not in line with what they normally expect a guest to do they would be trained to observe it and also to bring it to the attention of their supervisor.

NJBIZ: What effect do national security alerts like ?elevated? have on security personnel?
McCann: If you?re in a business with all the card access and requirements, you?re only letting in people who belong there and there?s a whole procedure that most companies follow. But now you have a hotel industry and you may have a hotel with a garage that?s underneath it or adjacent to it. People are coming in off the street that you don?t know. So with that you have to look at what you?re doing as far as the cars and the people who are coming in, and to think about all the things that may change because of the threat level.
NJBIZ: What should an individual do when there?s an elevated threat level?
McCann: What you want people to do is think about their routines and their habits and the things that they do. And if there?s precautions they?ve taken, to review them. Have they thought about what their procedure is if they have family in one part of the city and children going to school in another, or someone else traveling? If there is some kind of event, how do they get together, where do they meet? Who do they contact?

NJBIZ: What should people who attend conventions do with regard to security?
McCann: They should have the same basic concerns they would have even without the things that are taking place today. You do all these things when you?re at home: You have a meeting place in case there?s a fire, you have a smoke alarm and a carbon monoxide detector. Now you?re traveling to another city or country that doesn?t have the same safety standards as here. Do you know where the fire exit is? When the lights are out and it?s dark do you know how to get there? Have you taken a copy of your license or credit card numbers if everything is lost or stolen? There are so many different things that people should do when they?re traveling. It?s like you set everything up when you?re home, but when you?re traveling all those rules take a holiday also.

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