Tackling the unknown with stadium security

Tackling the unknown with stadium security
Thousands of people flood stadiums to watch major sporting events, not to mention the millions of viewers watching from home. With such a large viewership, stadiums have become a target for terrorists and others trying to make a statement.

Several high-profile terrorist attacks on stadiums in the last few years — such as the series of suicide bombings outside the Stade de France in Paris, France, in November 2015 and the car bombing outside the Vodaphone Arena in Istanbul, Turkey, in December 2016 — have only stressed the need for better stadium security.

However, terrorist threats and other attacks are, unfortunately, difficult to predict, making the unknown one of the biggest challenges in stadium security. “In discussions with some directors of security at large public stadiums, the one thing that keeps them up at night is trying to prepare for the unknown,” said Hank Monaco, VP of Marketing for Building Technologies and Solutions at Johnson Controls.

“In today’s world, unfortunately you have to try and prepare your team (stadium operations and security staff) for the unknown, trying to challenge your team to be prepared for what could happen based off events in other parts of the world. Some of those areas of concern include player and team safety, fan experience and safety, and early incident warnings,” he added.
Laura Blanc,
International Marketing Executive,
Herta Security

Difficulties in Monitoring the Masses

With some stadiums able to hold over 100,000 sports fans at any given event, ensuring the safety and security of every person in attendance is a huge undertaking, and the biggest challenge.

“The biggest concern when dealing with large venues is the sheer number of people coming together at once. This creates large chokepoints both before and after the event, which leads to the very real concern of a mass casualty event happening at a venue,” said David Chauvin, Business Development Manager of Public Safety Solutions at Genetec.

This task is made more difficult when considering the large number of entrance and exit points, which further complicates the task of keeping track of would-be troublemakers and blacklisted persons, according to Laura Blanc, International Marketing Executive at Herta Security.

Deploying a comprehensive security system is the first line of defense when it comes to ways of combating stadium security concerns. The right combination of video surveillance, access control, video management software, etc., could provide security operators with a good overview of what is going on in their venue; however, this does not come without challenges.
For example, finding the balance between a safe and secure venue versus fan entertainment is a major challenge and concern, according to Sebastian Seibt, Business Development Manager for Stadia and Entertainment at Bosch Security Systems. “Finding the right security solution (visible and invisible) as part of a tailor-made concept will be the key for a successful event for all involved parties — from venue owner to the spectators.”

“Technologically speaking, there is a need for each stadium to have a network infrastructure supporting video surveillance, access control and alarm monitoring, integrated by a powerful software management solution,” Blanc said. “It is also critical to examine the type of cameras installed in the stadium. It is very important to have appropriate cameras that can provide the right image quality and resolution. This is especially delicate when the purpose is to control a highly crowded environment.”

Chauvin also pointed out the challenge of sharing critical information in real time with law enforcement agencies. He noted that access to privately owned systems can become a big issue in a time of crisis and that figuring out how to effectively and efficiently gather the data that matters the most, at the right time is of critical importance.
Sebastian Seibt, 
Business Development Manager,
Stadia and Entertainment,
Bosch Security Systems

Additional Steps to Stadium Security

Stadiums are taking extra precautions beyond traditional video surveillance and access control. Attending a major sporting event isn’t like it used to be. Gone are the days of carrying a backpack filled with snacks or a video camera to record the game. Nowadays, entering a stadium comes with strict guidelines, all in place for the safety of all those in attendance.

“The adoption of a clear bag policy, like the one developed at the NFL (National Football League), is assisting venues in reducing the threat posed by unscreened bags capable of concealing an explosive device being carried close to populated areas around the outside of the venue,” said Jeffery Miller, SVP of MSA Security.

Stadiums are also using properly trained and imprinted explosive odor tracking canines that can alert on peroxide-based explosive compounds. This, according to Miller, is one potential solution for two concerns: “First, to vehicle screening challenges, and secondly, to the person-borne improvised explosive device (PBIED) threat that exists near the gate queue areas, shortly before the event begins.”

In addition, he added that the use of walk through metal detectors at all entry gates is helping to provide a safer environment inside of the venue and a better fan experience on entry as it permits better throughput capacity and more thorough searches.

Jeffery Miller, SVP,
MSA Security

Preventing Vehicular Attacks

The large crowd major sporting events draw means a massive number of potentially dangerous vehicles entering in and around the venue.

One of the biggest challenges facing venue security is preventing acts of terrorism around the venue. This has been further highlighted by the events in Paris and Istanbul where the attacks occurred outside of the stadiums.

“Operators are struggling to understand how to best prevent a vehicle ramming or person-borne improvised explosive device (PBIED) threat in crowded areas immediately outside of the entry gates,” said Miller.

Separating vehicles and people requires proper barriers or road closures that are sometimes difficult to achieve. Furthermore, how to best screen vehicles being parked in close proximity to the stadium structure is another challenge facing venue operators. “There are concerns surrounding staffing as well as creating a backlog of vehicles at critical times near parking structures,” he added.

To combat these issues, Miller explained the most important step that a venue can take is to have an experienced outside vendor conduct a risk and vulnerability assessment of the venue. Doing so will identify gaps and areas of risk that will form the basis of specific recommendations to counter and mitigate the risks found.

Stadiums for the Future

The fervor of sports fans can make stadiums a sort of breeding ground for conflict, even without any acts of terrorism. Monitoring stadiums for all types of incidents is, therefore, something that requires constant consideration. Keeping security solutions up-to-date is a necessary part of stadium security. By working together with industry partners to deliver new possibilities and keeping on top of new technologies, stadium security operators will be better equipped to tackle whatever potential dangers come their way.

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