Security – it’s the thing every sports event needs but planners don’t want to think about needing. As a result, they often wait until the event is nearly ready to go before they finally heave a sigh and say, “What are we going to do about security this year?”
Just a hint: If you’ve waited that long, you’ve waited too long.
Let’s face it – nobody wants to think about unpleasant things when it comes to sports events. They want to see happy faces, athletes celebrating and people cheering. Nobody wants to think about fights in the stands, fans getting out of control or things that are even more sinister. But that’s part of the problem: we live in a society where you have to plan for the worst.
Here’s what you need to know: once you’ve planned for the worst thing that can happen, you’re on the way to making things the best they can be. We all like to hope for the best, but really, if the worst happens, that’s why we’re there as the security company.
Where Security and Technology Intersect
Security companies spend a lot of time keeping track of the latest developments in technology because honestly, it helps us all do our jobs better. Something sports event planners will continue to hear more about in the coming months will be Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology. In terms of event security, this often takes the form of a computer chip that is placed in a credential, wristband or something else that is worn inside the event grounds.
For example, an athlete may wear an RFID device that lets commentators and others know where that athlete is along the race course (for example, during a marathon). A spectator might wear a wristband or credential that allows him or her access into the gates of an event – however, if that person acts up, gets into fights or somehow breaks rules and is ejected, the RFID immediately records that information and the person is not allowed back into the enclosure for the duration of the event.
At the same time, the RFID may help insure fairness by tracking an athlete as he or she travels through a race course – and can alert officials if that person leaves the course or tries to take a shortcut between checkpoints, thereby rendering him/her ineligible to finish. The RFID stores all identifying information about a person – their name, address, any payment information they used; in other words, it makes it much harder for the person to get away with bad behavior.
For those who hear about this and start thinking, “Oh, that sounds just like Big Brother,” consider this: If a child becomes separated from his or her parents and is brought to a security checkpoint wearing an RFID wristband, it makes it remarkably easy for security to pull up identifying information and alert the parents to the location of the child. How easy, safe and convenient is that?
Text messaging is one of the greatest ways to alert security about a problem – or even a problem in the making. Many fans in the stands can see someone having a lot to drink and getting belligerent and rude, for example, but they don’t want to confront the person. By texting their location and a brief description of the problem to security, they can have someone come up, evaluate the situation and possibly take action. It takes the bystander out of the picture and puts the onus on security – and on the misbehaving fan – to resolve the situation.
Security companies often find that spectators are their eyes and ears in the stands. When uniformed officers can’t be everywhere at once, it’s good to know that fans will help bring situations to their attention.
Venue Management Software
The landscape of security technology is always changing. Something we are now seeing is the integrated venue management software system. This includes security cameras as well as a staff, and records events real-time and tracks incidents as they happen. If documentation of an incident is needed, the system can find it. We have worked with ISS24/7, but other systems are available and/or under development.
New Trends, New Security Issues
Here are some new technology developments and the way security is responding to those:
Selfie Sticks: Not going to lie here; we as security professionals hear the word, ‘stick,’ and it makes us uneasy. Even a retractable pole can be a fight in the making if someone mistakenly swats someone else while trying to take a photo. Increasingly, we’re seeing venues put selfie sticks on the list of banned items and honestly, we think it’s for the best.
Drones: This is a developing issue. As security managers, we can stop people from coming in the gate carrying a UAV, but if something is airborne, there’s not much we can do. Many venues have stated no-fly zones. Ultimately, this is going to be something governed at the municipal or state level. And at some point, we may start seeing drones used by security companies for surveillance purposes. The years ahead are sure to bring new developments.
Metal detectors: Metal detectors are nothing new; they’ve been at every MLB park for years now – but it’s proof that when used properly, security checkpoints don’t slow down people’s ability to get into a game. And now, with special signage indicating express lines for those whose bags do not need to be searched, checkpoints are even less of an issue.
Providing All the Information
When you reach out to find a security partner, a good company will not simply ask you the date of your event. They’re going to know all about your event, the age of the participants, the type of spectators, the venue and any history of problems. All these factors will fold into the decisions regarding how much security you need, and where those officials should be stationed. Pre-planning is the key to success.
As a quick note, we are sometimes asked whether we will stop rough play on the field. We allow referees to handle that. Our job is keeping the fans in their seats and not letting them rush onto the field to get involved. Remember: there are a lot more fans, parents and students around, and keeping them where they belong is our job.
“Do I Really Need Security?”
It’s the question everyone asks at some point. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Having professional security on hand for your sports event is like getting your flu shot at the beginning of the contagious season – you’ll spend a lot more time regretting not having it than you will getting it done in the first place.
Sometimes, for example, we’ll hear a school system say, “We don’t really need security for this game; we can use teachers.” We think teachers are great – in the classroom. Or maybe taking tickets or directing people to their seats. However, the problem is that you have students, alumni, family members and others who are actually on friendly terms with the teachers and you might have hesitation from the teachers about being the heavy and keeping someone out of the venue.
When you work with a security-specific staff, you work with people who are trained in crowd control, safety and effectiveness. When necessary, they are good at saying no to people – and meaning it. If a situation arises and the venue has to be evacuated, security staff has the skills to do this efficiently and safely.
Sometimes, people don’t think they need security because they haven’t had an incident in a while. We spend a lot of time explaining to people that when security decreases, events become vulnerable to problems. What you save by cutting back can cost you tenfold more in injuries, in lawsuits – and in a bad reputation for your event. It is always better to have more security than not enough.