When it comes to protecting people at large-scale events, Mark Camillo is the person for the job. With over three decades of experience in the security industry—21 years of which were in the Secret Service—Camillo is a recognized expert in emergency preparedness operations. This March, he will lead a session entitled “Major Event Planning and Implications” at the Academy for Venue Safety and Security (AVSS) in Dallas, Texas.

Mark Camillo
Mark Camillo

A Leader in His Field

After beginning his distinguished special agent career working in a Secret Service field office, Camillo transitioned into an executive protection role at the White House, where he completed three separate tours. While there, his duties included protecting four U.S. presidents and their families and serving as head of the White House Security Branch—a position which oversees White House emergency preparedness, general security, and all-hazards operations. Camillo was then assigned to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, where he was appointed deputy assistant director, before moving to Secret Service headquarters, where he finished his career in the public sector as the Secret Service’s chief technology officer. Transitioning into the private sector, Camillo began working with the Lockheed Martin Corp. in the area of homeland security, before stepping into his current role as senior vice president of strategic planning at Contemporary Services Corporation (CSC), a crowd management and event security firm with venue clients that host MLB, NFL, NHL, and NCAA sporting events, to name a few.

Major Events  

Camillo’s experience in planning events of mass scale began in the late 1990s, after supervising the protection squad in the Secret Service New York field office.

“I returned to Washington, D.C., where I began my work in major event planning,” Camillo said. “From 1998 until 2002, I focused primarily on National Special Security Events—the highest rating designated for events of national significance in the U.S. During my time there, I believe I worked on 12 [events], through the design, planning, and implementation, and then was ultimately responsible, in charge of, the Federal security operation of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.”

Camillo explains that his work as Secret Service Olympic coordinator began long before the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics. The governing Presidential Executive Order required a structured approach to planning events of national significance, so in 1998 the Secret Service, FBI, and FEMA began teaming with state and local counterparts, along with private sector organizations, to work in concert to create what Camillo terms “a full spectrum of security plans that covered the before, during, and after portions of the event.” Camillo also traveled to Sydney, Australia, in 2000—a trip made, he says, to observe “how the Olympics would operate and to help me to better understand the environment created at an Olympics.” He notes that Salt Lake’s plans built upon a security groundwork laid in 1998 and then intensified after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

“We saw a need to enhance that national special security event model,” he said.

Camillo’s intensive preparation and planning paid off. The White House Office of Homeland Security named the Salt Lake Olympics “an excellent model for future security designs at Events of National Significance.” This model still operates today, with necessary updates being made as new threats emerge.

“It’s gratifying to see,” Camillo said.


AVSS  Session

Camillo insists that creating and implementing security plans at major events is a skill that can be studied and learned.

“[Students at AVSS will have] the opportunity to exercise all the different elements they’ve learned in the Academy in previous classes, because an event of magnitude, such as a major event…directly impacts venue operators and security professionals that work in venue environments,” Camillo said.

Accordingly, Camillo will speak on the three primary elements that go into creating a security plan for events of massive scale: the protective/preventative element, the crisis response element, and the consequence/contingency element. Grasping these three elements, Camillo said, coupled with an understanding of “the physical security, the cyber security, communications plan, emergency and crisis communications plans, and transportation considerations” will provide students with the basic framework required to create a full-spectrum security plan.

“It’s important for the venue management and the facility decision makers to understand where they sit in this equation, and how they can maximize the resources and knowledge coming in to help, in their part, in putting on a successful event,” Camillo said. “It’s also important to understand that even if you as a venue executive or decision maker may not have a direct role in a major event, you can still be impacted by it.”

The sheer size of mass events, where attendance often exceeds one million people, impacts venue professionals, for example, by way of stressing the transportation infrastructure.

“Whether it’s cars, vehicles on the road, or mass transit…it’s all going to impact you,” he said. “And, it’s important to stay abreast of those changes because they are going to happen…so it’s important that the students at AVSS have the opportunity to take the facility security, the cyber security, the information gathering elements, and apply all that into one particular event.”

Camillo points to the 2014 Concert of Valor on the National Mall, an event at which CSC provided access control in and around the stage, as an exemplary execution of a large-scale security plan. The concert, which attracted a crowd of more than 800,000 people, received a high-level special event assessment rating. The security plan’s successful execution was made possible by the collaboration between all organizations and individuals involved in the event security planning.

“I was happy to see the design of the public safety and law enforcement plan dovetailed into the private sector…there was a balance of resources…that I think was very seamless,” he said. “That shows the maturity of the private/public sector relationship now at major events.” FM