Business leaders, officials talk G8, NATO safety

February 16, 2012 4:11:34 AM PST
Hundreds of Chicago business leaders met with top law enforcement officials Wednesday to discuss what to expect at the upcoming G8 and NATO summits.

Law enforcement and security experts say businesses should be taking steps to be prepared with increased security for the summits, but they should plan on staying open for business. City leaders say they are confident the summits will showcase the city with little disruption.

Violent images of protesters at previous international summits in other cities have some Chicago business owners nervous, which could explain why Wednesday night's meeting was packed to standing room only capacity.

"It just kind of proves that people are starving for some information and today is a good day to start to break the ice and start to get that information flowing," said Tony Smaniotto, senior managing director of Studley.

"They want to know whether they should advise their employees to stay home that weekend, if they should be afraid of it," said Mark Dillon, Corporate Concepts.

The answer, according to those working in security, is no.

Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy along with the heads of the Chicago FBI office, Secret Service and Homeland Security say they have extensive plans in place to allow protesters their rights while keeping disruption to a minimum.

"I would ask you to calm down, listen to the experts and let's not get wild about this," said Terry Hillard, Hillard Heintze Security Consultants.

Officials offered some general advice:

  • plan for mail screening for suspicious packages
  • monitor social media, which is how protesters often communicate
  • establish counter-surveillance tactics to know what's developing near your business
  • create an evacuation plan
  • be prepared with a back-up location and communications plan for your business

"These are things we would recommend businesses do day in and day out, not just for a big event like the G8, NATO," said Arnette Heintze, Hillard Heintze Security Consultants.

Police expect as many as 10,000 protesters but they have no plans to use tear gas.

Alderman Ricardo Munoz, of the 22nd Ward, introduced a measure Wednesday to make sure police do nothing to jam cell phone signals or cut off social media among the protestors.

"We want to say we will not suppress communications, that we want this sort of social media communications," said Munoz.

Security consultants say many business owners will want specific security plans tailored to their needs. But there is no reason to begin working on those plans for a few weeks until officials have a better idea of the exact locations and times where the events will take place.