Modern day sports venue security is uncompromising and ever-evolving. Sports venues require a robust security posture to protect fans, players, staff and venue. Explosive threats, specifically Vehicle Borne IED (VBIED) and Person Borne IED (PBIED), have become prevalent, requiring an effective security solution. Franchise owners, chief security officers and professional and collegiate sports leagues must recognize vulnerabilities and combat risks. Explosive Detection Canine (EDC) teams are immensely valuable when combatting these explosive threats, specifically within the stadium environment – an acknowledgement made by current professional sports league mandates requiring EDC teams at stadiums nationwide.
When evaluating the role of EDC within an overarching security program, let’s look at three primary considerations for EDC rollout or expansion.
Perform a Comprehensive Vulnerability Assessment
The value of an independent, comprehensive threat assessment is enormous. It is the only way to understand the true threats that exist in a stadium environment. All too often, working the stadium everyday can make certain vulnerabilities seem invisible. A fresh outside perspective is vital. Best conducted by an independent consultant with risk assessment experience, this process will identify security gaps and serious risk and outline recommended mitigation strategies. The best assessment will start well beyond the secondary perimeter and work its way in to cover every area, including vehicle screening, gate access control, credentialing, emergency planning and integrated operations.
An initial assessment will establish a baseline for understanding vulnerabilities and required mitigation steps. However, the rapid evolution of today’s threats requires assessments be conducted at least annually – even for an organization with a robust program. Following the baseline, subsequent assessments can be managed by an outside contractor – or, with the right internal personnel, a thorough self-assessment could successfully address new gaps.
Deploy the Right Canines
It is a big miss if an organization is not considering the PBIED threat, because it is one of the most likely threats facing the stadium environment. EDCs are a proven tool for addressing and preventing the threat of IEDs – but not just any canine will do. It is critical to utilize an EDC that is properly imprinted and trained specifically to conduct explosive odor tracking sweeps in stadium crowds. These EDC teams are unobtrusive and versatile tools for addressing this threat in a populated area not requiring individual screening. This team’s imprint and training specificity will allow for the identification and tracking of today’s frequently-used explosive odors, such as TATP or Homemade Explosives.
Most sports venues have screening measures in place at the facility entrance. EDC teams may be deployed here, or within the stadium premises, but the threat to the back of checkpoint lines is all too often overlooked. Without a qualified EDC team, it is much easier for a PBIED to get past the secondary perimeter and close to your facility while wearing or carrying an explosive device. Once they are able to do that, it might be too late to prevent loss of life and facility damage.
SAFETY Act Certification
The most successful EDC teams will be DHS SAFETY Act Certified, which extends liability limitations for damages resulting from an act of terror. It is key to understand the three different levels of coverage and protection offered under the SAFETY Act – Certification, Designation and Developmental Test & Evaluation. Not every EDC program achieves DHS SAFETY Act Certification. The highest level of protection, Certification, is a clear indication of the degree to which the company has been able to pass incredibly stringent DHS requirements. It is not easy to achieve DHS SAFETY Act Certification and should be a non-negotiable pre-qualifier when choosing an EDC vendor.
An organization is only as good as its weakest link. From today’s security standpoint, the best sports organizations are active, rigorous and vigilant. They are committed to recurrent assessments and improved security processes consistently applied across all venues within a given league or collegiate conference.
The best security model? It is one that uses proven tools – like an EDC – to address today’s predominant threats. It is a model that is tested and probed at regular intervals and understood by everyone in the organization. It holds all members of the security team accountable for compliance and enforcement of established policies. This ensures that everyone is working toward the ultimate goal of zero security defects.
The reality is that security must always evolve to stay ahead of emerging threats. Regardless of an organization’s current EDC program status, there are always meaningful measures that can and should be implemented to improve your security posture.