Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017 | 2 a.m.
Just 30 days after the mass shooting that left 58 dead and more 500 injured, organizers of Las Vegas’ second-largest trade show increased security protocols at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
The Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) draws 140,000 attendees, and safety was the top priority, a show official said.
With the automotive aftermarket show taking place in Las Vegas in 41 of the 51 years it has existed, organizers were familiar with the area. They dealt with all levels of law enforcement and public safety groups to revise their plan.
“We made some substantial changes this year that are all about making sure that we’re not going to let anybody down,” Peter MacGillivray, vice president of communications and events or SEMA. “We’ve been lucky enough to work with local, state and federal authorities on our plan, and we’re feeling good about it.”
Some security updates were more notable than others. Metal detectors were placed at all entrances.
“That’s one of the things we’ve done to supplement our (security) plan,” MacGillivray said. “It is the first time that we’ve had them.”
In addition to the metal detectors, a security officer was stationed at each entrance with a hand wand. SEMA requested a larger Metro Police presence, and security agents also inspected bags brought into the convention center.
The SEMA team implemented an enhancement to admittance badges long before the shooting. Each badge has an infrared watermark that can only be seen under a black light to ensure only those with genuine badges are admitted to the show.
The response to the Las Vegas massacre is like that of the response after 9/11, MacGillivray said. The show was one of the first large events to occur in Las Vegas after the terrorist attacks.
MacGillivray said SEMA organizers left that show in 2001 proud of how the industry united. He said that he is already seeing a similar effect this year.
“The same holds true today. Our phone rang off the hook for people in the industry that wanted to help and support us (ahead of the show, after the shooting),” he said. “We’re part of the automotive community, but we’re also part of the Las Vegas community.”
SEMA’s opening showcase on Monday included a pair of local law enforcement officials.
“We were really proud to have two Metro officers drive across the stage on their motorcycles,” MacGillivray said. “It gave you chills seeing that and feeling it. There is just this spirit of support here that is really tangible.”