Security Specialist Shares Expertise in SDSU’s Meeting and Event Planning Program

Martin Hanneman

Martin Hanneman

In today’s world, event security is more important than ever, which is why San Diego State University’s Professional Certificate in Meeting and Event Planning program now includes Event Safety, Security and Risk Management in the curriculum.

The one-day course is taught by Martin Hanneman, a former naval aviator with over 20 years of experience in public safety and defense, including anti-terrorism, law enforcement, search and rescue, disaster relief, and domestic intelligence operations.

Students consistently cite the instructors’ real-world experience as the biggest strength of SDSU’s Meeting and Event Planning program, and Hanneman is the perfect example. He’s the founder and president of Astrea Risk Management Inc. of Mission Viejo, Calif., which provides security consulting services in critical infrastructure protection, emergency planning, risk management, training, and major event security operations.

Hanneman answered a few questions about his career and his course at SDSU.


Please give us a brief overview of your education and career.
I was born and raised in Australia, and grew up on a farm near a town west of Sydney. I graduated from high school there and then attended the Australian National University where I studied for a bachelor of science. During that time, I also attended the University of California, San Diego as an exchange student for 18 months. After graduating from university, I joined the British Royal Navy and moved to the UK. I served as a naval aviator for nine years, and was lucky enough to fly both assault helicopters and jet fighters. During my time on the helicopter squadrons, I was involved in anti-terrorism operations, and that is what got me interested in a career in security. After the Navy, I moved back to Australia and served in the army for a short period of time before moving again to Texas to fly an emergency medical helicopter. We returned to California in 2006 to work for the defense industry, and then I started my own security consulting business in 2011. In the meantime, I graduated from Boston University with a master of science in cyber security, and also became a reserve law-enforcement officer.

How did you come to be an instructor with SDSU’s program?
Like many great opportunities, it was from connections I made through networking. One of my company’s specialties is event risk management, and a senior manager from one of my clients was involved in SDSU’s program and recommended me.

What’s a key takeaway from your course — Event Safety, Security and Risk Management?
A key takeaway from my course is that in today’s world, event risk management should be considered a necessary part of event planning, not an optional extra. No matter what your role is in an event, planning for risk is something that increasingly needs to be addressed by everyone. The other key takeaway is that risk management works best when every single member of the event team is helping to identify potential issues, and an organization can only achieve this through thorough training and preparation.

What kind of activities/homework can students expect?
The class is very interactive, with several hands-on planning activities, and culminates in a group tabletop exercise where we practice responses to several theoretical emergency scenarios.

Martin Hanneman behind the scenes at an event

Martin Hanneman behind the scenes at an event

Do you have a favorite anecdote or two that you share with students about event safety?
I think students are often surprised by the variety of different areas addressed in this course. Most assume that we will talk a lot about subjects like terrorism and physical security — and we do — but we also take a very holistic view of event risks and look at operational issues, such as losing key personnel, rain delays, or poor ticket sales. I like to remind students that risk management is not just important for safety and security, but the success of the event itself relies on managing all risks correctly, including operational, legal, financial, and reputation issues.

One of the examples we discuss is the Indiana State Fair stage collapse which occurred in 2011, killing seven people and injuring many others. The collapse was due to structural failure of the stage in extreme weather conditions, but there were many other contributing operational factors, including emergency planning and communication issues, which are also important to understand. It’s a good example of how risks need to be identified and prepared for, but also how team members from many different disciplines need to be involved in the risk assessment process.

What do you think is the biggest strength of SDSU’s program?
I believe the strength of the SDSU program is that all of the instructors are current and successful professionals in their fields. Many hold high positions in professional event firms or run their own companies; these are people who are still doing what they are teaching. All have many years of experience, but most importantly, students get to learn from current practitioners so that the information is as accurate and up-to-date as possible.

What do you enjoy most about your career?
I am lucky enough to own my own business, and although it is very hard work, I love the flexibility that it affords me. The event work that we carry out in particular is rewarding because when we do our jobs well, we know we have kept a great many people safe. I also love to travel, experience interesting things and meet new people, and the event industry is a great place for that.

What do you enjoy most about teaching?
What I enjoy most about teaching is the thought that I may make a difference. In my profession this means that what I teach a student may help save a life one day — either their own or someone else’s —and that is very satisfying.

What advice/encouragement do you have for anyone wanting to enter the meeting and event planning industry?
I would say go into this profession with an open mind, learn as many different skill sets as you can, and always remember that it takes a team to put on an event. I think if you can go into this profession as a team player, with the willingness to work hard and the ability to make the success of the event your priority, then you will be successful.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a military pilot and a police officer. I’ve been lucky enough to do both. That’s why I ended up starting my own business and finding new things to do.

Anything you’d like to add?
I really encourage students to consider taking this course, even if you think you are not that interested in security and safety. This course is not meant to make you a safety expert — it is designed to give you the tools to identify when there is an increased risk, and how to integrate specialists into your teams when you need them. Unfortunately, the world is not getting any safer, and the nature of special events makes them particularly vulnerable to security threats and disasters. Clients are starting to place greater importance on risk mitigation, and are increasingly spending resources on planning and preparation. If something does go wrong, what you learn in this class could end up being very important to you, your client, or the organization you work for.

Event Safety, Security and Risk Management is Saturday, April 27, 2019, from 9 am to 4 pm. Register by April 17 for the early-registration discount.