Securing Large Events

Cities look to integrated, data-drive video solutions

A highly integrated, data-driven approach to securing and managing major special events is driving cities to adopt innovative video technologies for safety and security.

From the NFL to the PGA to NASCAR, when a major special event comes to town, city managers and local law enforcement must quickly deploy an efficient and responsive system to proactively manage and monitor the event. Security teams need a flexible, reliable and scalable way to safeguard multiple venues, manage crowds and traffic, and provide first responders with the information and situational awareness they need to make decisions.

Many cities are now leveraging the capabilities of open platform video management solutions and data-driven video technologies to address the unique needs of world-class sporting events.

Beyond Standard Operating Procedures
Major sporting events are often multi-day, multi-location festivals with any number of performances and entertainment activities leading up to game day. Attracting hundreds of thousands of fans worldwide, large sports events often involve many, if not all, local venues such as stadiums, theaters, convention centers, hotels, parks and temporary outdoor venues. In planning for these events, public safety officials must also deal with the added city congestion of portable stages, booths, displays, expanded parking areas and the fluctuation of crowds moving from attraction to attraction around the city.

For large events, law enforcement's top priority is identifying dangerous situations and proactively mitigating risks. Smart video systems can detect potential threats by flagging unattended bags, perimeter breaches, unauthorized area access and the unplanned formation of large crowds. Video analytic capabilities such as drone detection, people counting and image detection can alert operators of suspicious activity and potential threats. In all cases, open platform VMS bring together the core technologies, edge devices, specialized software, and the multiple agencies involved to secure these special events.

Prepare for a Team Effort
One of the first actions city officials must take in preparing for a special event is to review all existing camera systems. Many city departments have their own video management systems, which can be valuable resources for law enforcement. Public works, transportation, parks, water; all these departments have cameras positioned throughout a city, and when accessed as a single system, they can provide a comprehensive view of what is happening all around town. In many cases, public/private partnerships can also be beneficial, and agreements can be put in place that allow law enforcement to access private systems during a large event, such as within stadiums, convention centers, shopping areas, airports and transportation hubs.

Planning for these events usually takes place many months in advance and requires extensive research and coordination. Law enforcement needs to know what camera systems are available and have a plan in place for using as many existing cameras as possible. If all department sites are on the same VMS, that is a significant advantage, especially with an open platform system that can offer interconnection capabilities that make shared video systems very easy to set up and manage.

And because city officials, local police departments, and other first responders often work closely with the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI, a comprehensive security solution, a proactive inventory of available camera systems and pre-established interconnection procedures will be invaluable in sharing information with federal authorities, transit officials, law enforcement and other first responders.

Cyber Resilient
As with any network and technology-based solution, cyber security is a major concern. There have been situations where, before a big event, a host city fell victim to DDoS attacks that took down the network. A city may have a mitigation strategy in place, but those solutions usually take several minutes to kick in, and with large events, downtime is unacceptable.

In one mid-west city, the state’s regional city streets departments all worked together to create their own private fiber network that never touched the internet. While hosting a large event, managers were able to route all video and security data over the existing “dark fiber” so that if there was an attack and the internet went down, the security system would remain operational.

Additionally, an open platform VMS can provide solid security protection against external and internal security threats. Tiered administrator and user rights enforced on the server side, combined with standard IT security procedures, make an open platform approach the perfect choice for mitigating attack risks.

Working Smarter
At a time when many cities face with first responder staff shortages, access to data is more critical than ever before. Capturing hundreds or thousands of hours of video, audio and other data streams can become overwhelming and nearly meaningless if there are not sufficient staff for real-time monitoring or reviewing recorded data.

Today's AI- and metadata-driven video technologies turn what is generally regarded as a reactive system into a proactive system with real-time capabilities. Integrated analytics built into the VMS can tirelessly search all live or recorded camera feeds for flagged license plates, abandoned vehicles, left-behind objects, and more. Smart video analytic systems can notify security and law enforcement to what is important, so they can make informed decisions and respond appropriately.

An integrated, open platform, data-driven VMS can help cities rise to the challenge of providing for the safety, security, and enjoyment of all during large special events and beyond.

This article originally appeared in the March / April 2023 issue of Security Today.

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