Schools and universities are vulnerable to bombings and should review the protective measures they have in place, says Dr. Lou Marciani, director of the National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security (NCS4). At greatest risk to improvised explosive devices and other types of bombs are events with minimal access control where large crowds gather, such as free public concerts, homecoming celebrations and especially tailgating events outside of college football games.
“For example, at Louisiana State University we have 86,000 people inside the stadium and 50,000 outside. If something were to occur outside, it would have the same effect as the Boston Marathon bombing,” Marciani says. “We didn’t have this problem until the last couple of years when the number of people not going into events [but staying outside in the parking lots] increased immensely. It presents a whole new problem for us.”
Campus protection professionals are working to improve security best practices for tailgating and expanding the public safety perimeter to include parking lots surrounding big sporting events. Determining just exactly what those best practices will be, however, is a challenge. Tailgaters bring lots of coolers, backpacks and even campers filled with food, booze and electronics like large screen TVs. Searching and separating the individuals with ill intent from the vast majority of attendees who just want to have fun can be extremely difficult.
“As we get more sophisticated with tailgating, [security] is going to require more portable cameras and better access to video surveillance,” he says. “We also need to maintain security during the game so the personal belongs of those who tailgate are protected.”
Additionally, the problem is not limited to colleges. High schools are also at risk.
“The element they have is the fiber of the community, and it’s different than a college community or the pros,” claims Marciani. “There isn’t that much access control or identification. We’ve learned in our pilots that they need work on their plans for active shooters and evacuations.”
To address these and other sporting event safety and security issues, NCS4 will be hosting the National Sports Safety and Security Conference and Exposition in Orlando, July 16-18. For more information, visit www.ncs4.com.
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Photo courtesy Southern Mississippi University and NCS4.