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Local security firm leading local businesses through preparation seminars

A panel of local hotel business leaders, event organizers and law enforcement officers gathered in the Vail Four Seasons on Thursday to discuss security concervns and procedures for the 2015 Alpine World Ski Championships. Members of the panel are seen from left: Robert Ticer, Ceil Folz, Johannes Faessler, Neil Colclough, Tim Baker, Jim Spell, Mark Herron, Ann Norton, Joe O'Keefe and Craig Bettis,
Townsend Bessent | townsend@vaildaily.com |

World Championships

• 13 days, Feb. 2-15.

• 150,000 spectators.

• 800-plus athletes.

• 70-plus countries.

• 2,000 media.

• Three primary venues in Vail/Beaver Creek.

• 750 million TV viewers, mainly in Europe.

• 20,000 room nights booked so far.

Looks matter, especially when the world is watching.

The 2015 Alpine World Ski Championships will be the second largest event Colorado has ever hosted, behind only the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, and the world will see us — hopefully at our best, Homeland Security’s Joe O’Keefe told a group of local hotel and business managers.

Lonestar Security and Safety Services hosted about 100 people last week in Vail’s Four Seasons hotel to help with preparations. Among the instructors were O’Keefe; Vail Police Chief Dwight Henninger, incident commander for the world championships; Lonestar CEO Todd DeJong; and others.



“We want to balance great hospitality with great safety. We want people to come back time and time again,” O’Keefe said.

“We want to balance great hospitality with great safety. We want people to come back time and time again.”
Joe O’Keefe
Homeland Security

The World Championships are expected to draw massive numbers of spectators and television viewers.



It’s stuff you should be doing anyway, DeJong said.

“It could be anything from an actual threat to a stuck door in Sochi that got 21 million hits on social media,” DeJong said. “The question is how to handle those quickly and quietly.”



If you see something, say something

They’ve had no threats so far, but it’s best to be mindful, O’Keefe said.

So far, 2,200 volunteers have been tabbed from among 3,000 applications. More than 5,000 background checks have been run.

“It’s amazing to see how many people want to come from all over the country to help and be part of this event,” Henninger said.

Athletes from 70 countries will be housed in 30-plus hotels. Law enforcement officers will be doing more walk-throughs than usual, but they can’t see everything.

“We need you to be our eyes and ears,” O’Keefe said. “I encourage you to dust off your safety procedures if you have them. If you don’t, please create them between now and February.”

It really can happen here

It doesn’t often happen here, but it can.

“Bad people want to do bad things. You do get some kooks who’ve watched too many ‘24’ episodes,” O’Keefe said. “We want to stop it and make sure the event is as safe as possible.”

Not long before the 1999 World Championships in Vail and Beaver Creek, a terrorist organization burned down Two Elk Lodge atop Vail Mountain. The $30 million in losses made it the country’s second-largest eco-terrorist attack at that time.

PROFILE BEHAVIORS

Homeland Security and other security agencies do not profile people; they profile behaviors, O’Keefe said.

“I couldn’t care less about someone’s color or race. We watch behaviors. If someone is taking pictures of Vail’s International Bridge, it’s not really an issue. If they’re taking pictures of security personnel and equipment, we want to know about that,” O’Keefe said.

On the other hand, you need to remember where you are.

“In Vail, the line of aberrant behavior has a lot of flexibility,” said Jim Spell, retired captain with the Vail Fire Department.

Nothing/everything

Sometimes it’s nothing, said Jordan Clark, with the Counterterrorism Education Learning Lab.

When the USA Pro Cycling Challenge rolled through Aspen, a volunteer spotted an abandoned backpack by a bridge and notified authorities. It turned out to be the mayor’s backpack.

Sometimes it’s everything, Clark said.

Clark recalled a 21-year-old Minnesota woman who was washing dishes in her kitchen and spotted a guy wandering in and out of backyards who shouldn’t be.

She called the cops.

The cops contacted the guy and discovered that he had a large cache of weapons and ammunition. He was planning to murder his family first, and then attack a nearby school. His plan was to kill the security officer first, and then as many other people as possible — all on the anniversary of Colorado’s Columbine murders.

Relax and enjoy it

We love it when company comes, and company comes to Vail and Beaver Creek all of the time. The more prepared you are, the more fun you’ll have when the party starts, said Stephanie Palmer, of S3 Partnerships.

“We’ve done this before; we manage big events all the time,” Henninger said. “The balance is to present a high quality and safe event.”


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