The Game Plan

Potential terrorist targets get second security review

Since Sept. 11, 2001, the American sports industry has increased security at major sporting venues and at high-profile events such as the Super Bowl, World Series and Olympics. Stadiums provide a perfect target for mass casualties and catastrophic economic impact, and even university sports programs are taking the necessary steps to secure their stadiums and campuses against potential threats.

Lou Marciani, director of the Center for Spectator Sports Security Management, said an estimated 106 million fans attended NCAA sporting events in 2007. There are 1,791 stadiums in the United States, ranging in capacity from 2,000 to 250,000 people. Twenty NCAA stadiums hold more than 90,000 people. The top 20 NCAA basketball arenas have a combined seating capacity of more than 400,000, and each team plays more than 15 home games.

Spectator Sports, Security Management

The Center for Spectator Sports Security Management at the University of Southern Mississippi was established in 2006 to provide an interdisciplinary environment to further increase sports security awareness, improve sports security policies and procedures, and enhance emergency response.

"The knowledge we have gained and are sharing helps stadiums and arenas do a better job of securing their venues," Marciani said. "The center’s Sports Event Security Aware seal of approval is awarded when universities have met the requirements for effective security and safety management systems related to preparation, prevention, response and recovery. The center also is in partnership with the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics for curriculum development to train member institutions on sports event security management."

Recently, the center announced that NFL stadiums across the country will host sports event security training for more than 1,000 intercollegiate institutions. Through the center’s guidance, assessing risk, reducing vulnerabilities and increasing the level of preparedness will help minimize potential threats to university sports venues nationwide. The center has recommended standards for effective security management of university sports and other venues.

Venue Operators' Role

The center’s suggestions fall into a series of security categories well-known by security professionals, regardless of their industry.

Perimeter control. Security should establish an outer perimeter at the stadium, lock down the stadium, have police patrol before and after events, establish a secure inner perimeter and secure vulnerable systems with locks and seals.

Access control. Venues should publicize inspections and prohibited items, place security personnel and law enforcement at each entry point, identify coaches and players, and reserve the right to inspect deliveries.

Credentialing. Credentials should be worn at all times and look different from those used in prior sessions. Venues should maintain a record of people who were issued credentials. All team bench staff, except players in uniform, should wear a game credential. Background checks for vendors, employees, contractors, students and volunteers also should be considered.

Physical protection systems. The stadium and press box should be equipped with an integrated security management system with CCTV, access control and alarms.

Risk management. Developing risk management plans for events and completing these plans in conjunction with local law enforcement are very important.

Emergency management. Emergency response plans should be coordinated with local, state and federal emergency management agencies. A primary and secondary security command-and-control center with a view of the playing field should be established to facilitate decisionmaking.

Recovery procedures. Identifying security needs and having written contracts or mutual aid agreements in effect with local and out-of-state emergency responders is of the highest importance. Contracts should be in place for immediate restoration and secondary locations identified to hold event bookings.

Communications. Identify a chain of command, provide a notification sequence, and have access to handheld radios and reliable communication systems with backups. The command center should have direct access to the emergency communication system and be able to authorize emergency scripts and messages.

Security personnel. Security personnel should be included in all training and planning activities to ensure they are aware of their duties and responsibilities. All personnel must undergo a background check.

Training, modeling and simulation. Training should be provided in several areas, including inspection procedures to security staff, credential recognition to access control personnel and security awareness to ushers, vendors and volunteers. Evacuation simulations, emergency drills and table-top exercises are helpful. During training scenarios, planners should test the chain of command, the decision-making process, primary/ secondary communications and emergency use of the PA and video systems.

Lab Work

The Center for Spectator Sports Management’s national sports security lab will apply the center’s expertise in sports event security best practices and needs, and bridge security solution providers with the sports event security community, Marciani said.

The lab’s scope is to provide opportunities for security observation, practice, testing, investigations and experimentation as it relates to sports security technology, training and exercises. Its most important elements will be to assist all sports leagues and intercollegiate facilities, act as a sports security solution clearinghouse by consolidating solution requirements, serve as a solution test bed and provide unbiased assessments. The lab will provide more efficient identification, development and deployment of the best solutions, reducing cost to both solution providers and end users. Ultimately, the lab will implement national standards for testing/evaluating relevant products and services.

This article originally appeared in the May 2009 issue of Security Today.

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