Daytona International Speedway Tackles Security Without Cameras

For fans of NASCAR, Daytona International Speedway is home of the most prestigious race in the sport -- the Daytona 500 that kicks off the racing season in February.

More than 200,000 fans attend the race, often called the Super Bowl of NASCAR. But the raceway has some type of events going on 340 days a year, including the Coke Zero 400 NASCAR race on July 2.

In Orlando earlier this month, attending a pre-show media tour for September’s ASIS 2011 conference, I was a little surprised when Daytona’s Director of Security John Power said that there are currently no cameras inside the speedway.

But that is going to quickly change. Power said the speedway recently received a $319,000 grant to install IP video cameras. The majority of cameras will be fixed and installed year around.

During big weeks, like the Daytona 500, there are plans to deploy a wireless mesh network and install other movable cameras. The entire systems should be viewable in a command center.

“I really like the IP video system,” Power said. “I’ll have the ability to access video anywhere.”

Without the aid of video, Power said he take a different approach to security.

“My philosophy is to prevent,” he said. “We have lots of uniformed guards in the grandstands as a visual deterrent.”

And unlike other sporting events, with the all-day festival type of atmosphere around the races, fans do not usually go through metal detectors to enter the speedway since many people go in and out of the facilities many times.  Fans are also allowed to bring in their own alcohol.

An exception to the security rules happened in 2004, when President George W. Bush attended the Daytona 500. The former president wanted to sit in a spot near the fans -- a part of the grandstands that held more than 20,000. Because so many fans came in and out, more than 60,000 went through metal detectors during race day.

“I still don’t know if I’ve received the last hate mail about that,” Power said jokingly.

Fans are also allowed to park in the infield to watch the race. But since the area is a vulnerable spot where the drivers and garages are located, all vehicles are run through extremely sensitive equipment to test for dirty or nuclear bombs.

“If you had any type nuclear medicine in the last week, you’ll have to prove it before we’ll let you into the infield,” Power said.

Even with all of the fans at the race, Power estimated that there are only 10-15 arrests from when fans start congregating at the raceway in January until the end of the Daytona 500.

And Power has just a little bit of knowledge about the raceway. He has been director of security since 1996 after logging a 25 year career with the Daytona Police Department. And he has worked every event at the complex in some capacity since 1972.

“I tell people I work harder now than I did in my law enforcement job,” he said. “There are so many issues you try to anticipate, but when you handle one, another pops up.”

Are you surprised how Daytona handles security?

Posted by Brent Dirks on May 31, 2011

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