Safety & Security

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Threat of Terrorism Boosting Security, Risk-Management at Marathons

16 Nov, 2016

By: Michael Popke

A poll taken by Meetings & Conventions magazine earlier this year suggests that more than two-thirds of meeting professionals admit they're now more concerned about security at meetings because of recent terrorist attacks.

“Any time you have an aggregation of people, it can become a high-profile target,” Bruce McIndoe, CEO of iJET International, a Maryland-based security consultancy that works with major event planners. “We are in a really dynamic environment, and the frequency and severity of these events is increasing year-over-year.”

Organizers of marathons and other open-air sporting events with “an aggregation of people” have been on high alert, too — especially after the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. In September, a pipe bomb exploded in a Seaside Park, N.J., garbage can near the Semper Fi 5K Charity Run route.

At October’s Chicago Marathon, a stronger law enforcement presence, more rigorous checkpoints and more than 22,000 surveillance cameras set up across the city, according to USA Today.

“By those measures, marathons are safer than ever,” the paper reported last month. “But the threat is never zero in a free society, no matter how much of a police state these cities become on race days. It’s all still a guessing game of sorts, rooted in fear. Since Boston, the guessing at marathons now is just better organized, more focused and more expensive, according to officials and experts contacted by USA Today Sports.

“There’s a whole grid structure that we’ve built so we can identify any one spot that is a concern,” Peter Ciaccia, race director of Nov. 6’s TCS New York City Marathon, told the paper. “It’s a big, big area. So we’ve broken this up into lots of little (parts). As you can imagine, it’s a big jigsaw puzzle. The way it’s put together, we look like Fort Wadsworth.”

In preparation for the marathon, the New York Police Department announced a few days prior to the event that “it will have eyes in the sky, in the water and, of course, on land, with thousands of uniformed cops along the route,” according to CBS New York. “Specially trained plainclothes cops will be mixed in with the crowds, and heavy weapons teams will also be on patrol, as well as 30 explosive-detection K9s.”

New York City Marathon officials coordinated and planned security operations with local, state and federal authorities, according to USA Today. Ciaccia added that the security, medical and emergency management budget for the event has doubled to more than $1 million since the Boston bombing.

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