Three Pillars of Sports Venue Security

Three Pillars of Sports Venue Security

Situational Awareness, Identification, Operations

Stadium security has gotten a lot more complicated than apprehending seat jumpers, defusing confrontations and ejecting rowdy fans for imbibing one too many beers. These days, events are all about the total fan experience — the tailgating parties, the street vendors, and the additional activities and entertainment outside the gate. Once inside the venue there are the crowded concourses, the bars and VIP lounges, and lots more. All this activity happening simultaneously stretches security resources to the max. It’s one of the main reasons you’d be hard pressed to find a spectator venue today that doesn’t deploy network surveillance cameras as a force multiplier. Video systems provide stadiums three important advantages: situational awareness, identification and operational insight.

Improving Situational Awareness

Stadiums are like small cities. In addition to the seating bowl, retail shops, concession stands and restaurants, there are ATMs for patron convenience, first aid stations for medical emergencies, escalators, elevators, meeting rooms, parking garages and parking lots. With multiple entry points, security needs to draw on a full portfolio of network cameras to advance situational awareness, protect public safety and resolve problems quickly. By relying on network-based technology, it also makes it easier to share situational awareness with local, state and federal law enforcement and first responders as needed.

Outside the venue. Network cameras mounted on the roof not only give security a comprehensive view of the parking lot and gate entrances, but also the surrounding thoroughfare. Using a mix of HD and megapixel fixed dome and PTZ cameras allow security to spot approaching vehicles and capture critical details that could forestall liability claims and expedite criminal investigations. Adding video analytics such as license plate recognition can provide another layer of security.

There was an instance where the local police were trying to locate a suspect that they thought might have boarded a city bus in front of the stadium. They reviewed the stadiums external surveillance footage and saw which bus the person boarded. From there they were able to determine where he went, track him down and bring him in for questioning.

Inside the venue. Because lighting conditions vary throughout the venue, stadiums often opt for wide dynamic range cameras that can provide exceptional detail both in bright sunlight and shadow. This is especially useful in areas like loading docks, where it’s important to visually verify what’s being delivered. Another security strategy is to link network cameras to panic buttons throughout the stadium enable security to quickly assess the nature of the emergency and dispatch the appropriate assistance to that location. For example, the security office monitoring the cameras once spotted a fan having a seizure and quickly dispatched medical personnel and called 911 for immediate assistance. It saved the man’s life.

Some stadiums use their cameras in concert with their security complaint hotline. If a fan reports a situation is getting out of hand, camera operators can locate the trouble spot on their video monitors and push a video clip to security personnel that identifies the unruly fan and their exact location.

One stadium that was hosting a major concert used network thermal cameras to prevent excited fans from being trampled in the crowd. Because the cameras detected heat signatures, the camera could alert security that a person who had fallen down or a small child was lost in the commotion.

Adding motion sensor alerts to areas that typically should have little foot traffic, simultaneously reviewing incidents from multiple camera angles while live viewing those same cameras, and a host of analytics like gunshot detection and aggression detection provide stadium security with smarter, more immediate situational awareness across the entire venue.

Improving Identification

Most stadiums restrict access to certain areas of the venue: player entrances, locker rooms, press boxes, VIP suites, catering kitchens, etc. Network cameras can play a key role in deterring unauthorized individuals from going where they shouldn’t. Many stadiums integrate their access control systems with surveillance cameras to visually verify that the person using the key card or badge matches with the face in the database. The cameras also provide a great tool for detecting piggybacking, people attempting to gain entrance by going through the checkpoint on the close tail of an authorized person.

Using video analytics, stadium security can quickly spot people wearing the wrong credential badge for the area and send staff to detain or remove them. Many stadiums used the sophisticated search algorithms of their video systems to locate and reunite missing children with their parents. As camera operators continuously sweep the area for any activity outside the norm, search algorithms also help them spot suspicious packages and lost objects and trace them back to whoever left them.

Improving Operations

From an operations standpoint surveillance cameras provide a rich source of information to limit stadium liability and improve venue management. For example, camera footage can be used to challenge erroneous slip and fall claims or arbitrate disputes. In the latter case, there was an altercation in the seats during a game and one fan insisted that another be ejected from the premises. The patron lodging the complaint also asserted that guest services failed to handle the situation correctly and demanded that the employee be fired. When security reviewed the video of the incident, it told an entirely different story. When the patron was confronted with the evidence, the complaint was rescinded and no one’s job was lost.

Video cameras placed in the kitchen can help assure that staff follows proper health and safety protocols when handling and preparing food. Cameras monitoring merchandise kiosks and retail shops can help deter pilfering and unsanctioned giveaways and provide forensic evidence for prosecution if necessary.

With hundreds of thousands of dollars of merchandise and supplies being delivered to stadiums over the course of a season, there are plenty of opportunities for deliveries to come up short. Putting cameras at loading docks stadiums gives operations managers a way to confirm deliveries and provide a visual record for tracking discrepancies. In one case, forensic video confirmed that a trucker dropped off the correct inventory and then when no one was watching (except for the cameras) reloaded several cases back onto the truck and resold the merchandise for personal profit. The stadium was able to prove liability and recoup the loss from the trucking company.

Operations managers are using surveillance cameras to more closely examine and improve a whole host of operations within the stadium from gate staffing and training to custom services for bus groups, timely alerts about approaching severe weather conditions and emergency evacuation planning.

Acquiring Up-to-Date Best Practices Training

Sports venues are what the Department of Homeland Security identifies as soft targets. And like many soft targets, stadium security threats are constantly evolving. This has spurred the establishment of the National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security (NCS4), a national research center devoted to the study and practice of stadium safety and security.

The organization provides the U.S. sports industry with a wealth of resources and learning opportunities about the latest advances in stadium security solutions and the most current industry best practices. NCS4 conducts thought leadership summits, networking opportunities, professional certification programs and evacuation training exercises. They offer stadiums venue security and safety assessments and operate a NCS4 National Sports Security Laboratory where they test, evaluate and validate technology solutions. The invite stadium personnel to participate in hands-on workshops.

By facilitating a mutually beneficial connection among professional sports and event venues managers, professional associations, security products manufacturers, first responders and government agencies, NCS4 creates a solid industry foundation for improving the safety of spectator venues across the country.

Teamwork Keeps a Venue Safe and Secure for All

Like sports, security involves team effort to achieve success. And like sports, it’s based on strong fundamentals, analyzing the field of play and adjusting strategies to meet new challenges. Stadiums can strengthen their security plans and procedures through the three pillars of comprehensive situational awareness, timely identification and innovative operations. This is best achieved through strategic integration of the latest field-proven smart camera technology with other physical security systems like access control and video analytics. Management should also take full advantage of resources like the NCS4 and peer conferences to stay abreast of the latest security best practices to ensure an enjoyable and safe game day experience for everyone.

This article originally appeared in the January 2018 issue of Security Today.

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