Facility managers and security officials as well as law enforcement professionals have been on high alert during high-profile sporting events since the tragic events that unfolded on April 15 during the 117th running of the Boston Marathon. Three were killed and at least 176 were injured from two explosions along Boylston Street – the location of the finish line. The nature of these attacks rocked the nation and caused many event organizers to rethink their security plans for sports events that draw big crowds.
Facility, security and event managers must work in tandem to develop solid security strategies to prevent breaches in security and ensure the safety of all event attendees, including athletes, spectators and staff. Customized security plans should be established for each event to account for the varied logistics and levels of potential threat. Plans should also be developed as not to impede the spectator experience of the sporting event.
Measuring Risk with a Threat Assessment
When establishing a security plan, professionals should first conduct a threat assessment in which potential risk is identified as well as quantified in order to effectively establish an event-specific security plan. A threat assessment helps you to identify realistic threats in order to allocate efficient resources to address those threats.
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During the threat assessment, the event profile should be considered in order to effectively determine the need for heightened security measures. High profile sporting events can garner exposure for a potential attacker, which increases the probability of an attack. Ask these questions:
- Will there be extensive media coverage before, during and after the sporting event?
- Are there any high profile guests attending the sporting event?
- Are there any controversial guests attending the sporting event?
- Are there any controversial sponsors of this sporting event?
Some sporting events inherently carry a higher threat risk, and this should be identified prior to the event to put effective security measures in place.
Securing Sporting Events through Effective Planning
After a threat assessment has been completed, facility, security and event managers should draft a comprehensive security plan that addresses various components, including the following:
- Entry criteria and access control: Controlling access to your sporting event is essential to preventing a security breach or other threat. Sporting events that are open to the public such as the Boston Marathon hinder security efforts as officials are unable to screen out potential attackers. In the case of the Boston Marathon, the course covered 26.2 miles throughout Boston and surrounding communities making it almost impossible to secure the event. However, many large-scale sporting events such as the Super Bowl have entry criteria in the form of a required ticket purchase for admission. This provides an opportunity to scan all entrants and conduct other security checks.
- Critical area protection: While facility and event attendees may pass security clearance, there are other areas in and around the venue that need to be secured for safety. Tailgating is common in sports and often takes place in the venue’s parking lot and neighboring parking areas. Frequent scans of these areas can help safety officials identify risky behaviors or other potential threats.
- Specific security concerns: The venue’s security plan should include instructions to address a number of potential scenarios for a breach in security to ensure quick action.
- Specific deterrents and responses: The security plan should also include a specific action or response to the identified security concerns.
- Emergency action plans: Sport venues should have an emergency action plan on hand prior to any sporting event to ensure the safety of attendees and quick action of responders. This plan should be made in accordance with local emergency service officials to be most effective. As with any emergency, communication is key. The action plan should layout specific instructions for effective communication between venue officials and emergency staff for a streamlined and successful response to a security threat or disaster.
The attack on the Boston Marathon put other sporting events on high alert in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy. Heightened security measures may inconvenience spectators; however, they are essential to securing public safety and the integrity of the event.
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