Hundreds of sports security professionals met last week in Louisville, Kentucky, for the 9th Annual NCS4 Conference, where they tested new technology, networked, discussed situational awareness techniques and honored industry professionals who go above and beyond to ensure their venues and events stay safe.

This year’s conference was built around the theme of “Enhancing Safety and Security Situational Awareness for Sports and Entertainment Security.” In one of the event’s keynote sessions, Michael Roberts, Programme Manager for Project STADIA at INTERPOL, outlined how officials handled security and situational awareness for the 2018 Olympic Games in South Korea.

Within the Security Coordination Office for the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games, 40 to 50 security organizations were represented, including representatives from the Korean police, military, Ministry of the Interior & Safety; Presidential Secret Service (for dignitary protection) and the Olympic Organizing Committee. This year, security managers from several companies sponsoring the Olympics were also included in daily briefings, so they could share intelligence that they had collected and benefit from connections with other stakeholders in the room.

Moving forward, Roberts says, he is recommending bringing more participants and stakeholders into the room, including major broadcasters, whose efforts ensure the Games reach the intended international audiences.

He also stressed focusing more on resilience instead of mere prevention – preparing to deal with threats and effectively respond and recover can be essential to a large-scale event, especially for threats that are difficult to predict or contain, such as a health risk. When a norovirus outbreak caused organizers to quarantine the 1,200-person security force, Korea had already pre-trained 900 members of their military to fill in those roles, and there was no major decline in the amount of security coverage around the 20 venues.

In addition to the educational aspect of the conference, several hundred attendees honored leaders in the industry at the annual awards luncheon.

Peter Ciaccia, President, Events and Race Director, New York Road Runners, was presented with the Distinguished Leadership Award. With the New York Road Runners, Ciaccia has a team of 220 people, hosting events weekly with participation levels anywhere between 5,000 and 52,000 runners, including the New York City Marathon. He advocated for sharing information with other events management teams, including international races and partners. “It’s an open book… no trade secrets. Sharing that information, all boats rise,” he says.

Dennis Cunningham, Executive Vice President and Director of Security for the NHL, received the Lifetime Achievement Award, saying in his acceptance speech: “I not only accept this award for lifetime achievement, but I share it with you.”

Cunningham, who has worked in the security industry since 1993 and served in the NYPD before that, emphasized in his speech that career paths are not always as direct as professionals might plan, but that can be a good thing.

When asked about his advice for incoming sports security professionals, Cunningham told Security magazine: “It’s a matter of having patience, and I mean that sincerely. The timetable for younger people – and I know it from my own grandchildren – they want to have everything immediately and have everything blueprinted out in how their career is going to go and what timeframes they’re going to reach, and it doesn’t work like that; life doesn’t work like that. Things come that you have to deal with, and they’re unintended consequences, and you may think that these experiences hurt you, but in two years, it hasn’t. You always have to keep preparing, just like any other profession.”

He also recommended thinking abstractly about potential threats, and striving to find forward-facing stakeholders who would support those efforts. Regarding the sports security risk landscape, Cunningham says: ““I came in in ’93, and the defining moment (for sports security) was 9/11. Not to overdramatize it, but just like the Las Vegas shootings, events seem to change the industry and make us respond to it. The good thing is if you can get ahead of it and think outside of the box ahead of time, but it’s very hard to get everybody onboard for that kind of thought process. So there are going to be the thinkers who think about these things, and there are the doers who embrace it, and there need to be the people over them who fund it and support it.”

Security and SDM magazines publisher Chris Ward presented the 2018 Golden Eagle Award, which recognizes excellence in the safety and security of sports venues by their designers, builders, integrators and security directors.

“The Golden Eagle Award is very unique, because there are not many award programs for excellence in security design for an end use facility – and this is the only security award for sports venues,” Ward says. “This award is proof of excellence in technological design at some of the most well-attended sports facilities in the world – designs that have been implemented to enhance public safety, prevent loss, and perhaps to avert a tragedy, which is the ultimate goal of security professionals, and the essence of the Golden Eagle Award.”

The 2018 Golden Eagle Award was presented to U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. At the event, Guy Konietzko from GeoComm spoke about their Smart City Mapping System in use at the stadium, which focuses real-time information and sensor feeds into a single common operating picture built around 3-D and indoor maps for the Minneapolis Police department. Public Safety users can virtually see into buildings through the use of the system, enabling law enforcement and other agencies to achieve a new level of situational awareness.

The two other finalists for the 2018 Golden Eagle Award include the Little League International Complex in Williamsport, Pa., and TPC Scottsdale, home of the Waste Management Phoenix Open.

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