In the wake of the shooting rampage at a gay nightclub in Orlando, it didn’t take long for businesses, public officials and event organizers to start reevaluating their security strategies.
Several bars frequented by gays in Washington said they would begin barring patrons from bringing bags into their establishments, at least temporarily. New York officials said residents would notice a heightened police presence in busy parts of the city. Spokesmen for Nashville Pride and Pride Northwest, two upcoming festivals celebrating the LGBT community, said Monday that there would be increased security at their events.
The attack in Orlando — where a gunman opened fire at the Pulse nightclub and left 49 people dead and more than 50 injured — has operators of large gathering spaces once again grappling with thorny questions about how best to balance security with accessibility.
In many cases, the response is only just evolving. For example, organizers of San Francisco Pride were meeting with law enforcement officials Monday to discuss security procedures for their festival starting June 25, which is among the nation’s best-known gay pride events. Across the country, many businesses and event venues engaged in similar conversations.
Jim McNulty, executive vice president at security firm Securitas, said that before the Orlando shooting, he had already seen an increase in companies carrying out drills to deal with active-shooter incidents. Now, McNulty said, it’s possible that companies are weighing more noticeable changes at places such as malls, movie theaters and concert halls after recent attacks in Brussels, Paris, San Bernardino, Calif., and Orlando focused on “soft targets.”
“I don’t think it’ll be long before you see metal detectors in certain public spots,” McNulty said, noting that many major sports arenas have already adopted the tactic. “It’s something as a people we’re loath to do because we cherish our freedom to move about freely.”
For some businesses, an examination of security procedures was already underway before the attack in Orlando.
“While security has always been one of our top priorities we have increased our focus in recent months,” a spokesman for Marriott International said in an email. “Security procedures and risk assessments at our properties are reviewed often.”
The International Council of Shopping Centers stressed that its members — major malls and other retailing hubs — have steadily adopted new tactics to deter trouble.
“While some security measures deployed at shopping centers such as the use of bollards, uniformed patrols by law enforcement officers, and surveillance camera systems will be evident to consumers, many more protective measures will not,” a statement from the organization said.
But for others, the Orlando attack was a jolt that led to swift action. In the District, bars such as Cobalt, Green Lantern and JR’s Bar and Grill posted announcements on their Facebook pages that they were adopting a “no bags” policy as a precaution.
However, Mark Lee, executive director of the D.C. Nightlife Hospitality Association, cautioned that there is no one-size-fits-all solution.
“Because of the planning, preparations and training that nightclubs and entertainment venues here undertake, and the focus on security concerns at local establishments, we like to think that our city’s restaurants and bars are among the safest public spaces in the city,” Lee said.
Robert C. Smith, chief executive of Nightclub Security Consultants, a San Diego-based business that trains security guards and bouncers, said restaurants, bars and other venues need to focus on professionalizing and training their security staffs for this type of attack.
Smith, whose company has provided training to D.C. clubs including the Shadow Room and the Park at Fourteenth, suggested broader implementation of what’s known as the “run-hide-fight” rule, which calls for running if it’s possible, hiding if it’s not, and fighting back as a last resort.
Smith said that while every state mandates licensing for security guards, they often receive only “generic” training that needs to be updated to address active-shooter situations. He argued strongly against arming bouncers, however.
“The last thing you need is people with guns,” he said. “You need people that can communicate. You need people that know what to do in a crisis.”
And yet, not every business was moved to rethink security after the latest attack.
“We have pretty adequate security right now,” said Steven Weinstein, owner of the Fireplace bar on P Street NW. If somebody is intent on attacking the bar, as the Orlando shooter did at Pulse, “it’s not going to matter what kind of security you have,” Weinstein said.
John White, a former law enforcement official who now serves as an independent security consultant, said mass shootings elsewhere don’t always register at home.
“There’s still apathy out there that these things don’t happen in our city or our town,” White said.
Renae Merle in New York and Abha Bhattarai in Washington contributed to this report.