Security speaks to Kevin Dooley, Senior Director of Security and Transportation for the San Diego Padres, about the approach his team is taking to fan and player safety.
Security: What is your background? What are your current responsibilities as Senior Director of Security and Transportation for the San Diego Padres?
Dooley: I am a graduate of Clemson University with a degree in Secondary Education and a focus in Psychology and Sociology. I spent two years teaching in the public school system before taking a part-time Security Officer position with the Charlotte Bobcats in an effort to launch a career in sports.
After a little over a year, I was promoted to our security management team. Over the next 14 years in my career, I have been provided the opportunity to oversee security, safety, parking and transportation operations for numerous sports teams, including the Charlotte Bobcats, San Antonio Spurs and Atlanta Hawks. As well as consulting for large events such as the NBA All-Star Game, Super Bowl, Democratic National Convention and NCAA Championships.
In 2019, I transitioned to San Diego, where I serve as the Senior Director of Security & Transportation for the San Diego Padres. In my role, I have direct oversight for all safety and security initiatives with a primary focus on emergency management, event security, physical security and transportation while partnering with our local emergency responders, which are AMR, SDFD and SDPD.
Security: April 1, 2021, marked the return of major league baseball across the country, and right from opening day, stadiums have had live fans in the stands. What is the approach your team is taking to fan and player safety? How have your security priorities shifted since COVID-19?
Dooley: I believe we have seen a shift within our industry. Whereas safety and security and guest experience procedures being the top priority to health and safety now coming in ahead of safety and security and guest experience.
Throughout 2020, we took the approach as an operations team and adopted the mindset “be ready to change on a dime.” This could not have been more fitting as our staffing levels, policies, procedures and effects from COVID were ever-evolving through the pandemic, civil unrest, execution of outdoor events, launching the first mega vaccination station in California and ultimately re-launching our 2020 MLB season along with Post Season baseball.
In preparing for our 2020 season, our operations team thoroughly studied our MLB operating guidelines and began brainstorming ways to incorporate our safety, security and operational procedures into our health and safety planning. We started conducting walkthroughs with our Baseball Operations teams. We were able to update our entry procedures, paths of travel and access control to not only exceed our health and safety guidelines from MLB, the state of California and San Diego but to also ensure that all of our standard safety and security operating procedures were maintained.
Upon practicing this during Baseball with no Fans and our American League postseason games, we were able to build on these procedures when re-opening Petco Park to fans on April 1, 2021.
In preparation for the 2021 season, we were not certain whether we would open the season with or without fans in the state of California. With this uncertainty, we took the approach that we would open our gates with fans, and our operational team collaborated to begin constructing entry procedures that we felt would meet all of our health and safety protocols. By taking this approach, we were ready to open the Ballpark on April 1 to roughly 20% of our capacity. We activated our four major gates with health and safety guidelines that included providing above adequate spacing of guests within our entry queues, socially distancing our magnetometers, providing staff with necessary PPE and ensuring that our entry process maintained our social distancing guidelines.
After our first Homestand, we were able to increase our attendance model by launching a designated vaccinated gate and vaccinated seating section. In doing so, we ensured that all other gates still met our health and safety procedures mentioned previously.
Our Park Boulevard Gate sponsored by Quidel became our vaccinated entry, and upon guest’s arrival, they provided proof of vaccination, a negative test record over the past 72 hours or would be tested on the property before going through our security process. Once these inspections were completed, we provided a wristband to identify that the guest was vaccinated and ensure that our staff monitoring our vaccinated seating locations would restrict access to any non-vaccinated guests.
By being able to “change on a dime,” we were able to meet each of these challenges without compromising our safety and security procedures and when clearance for opening Petco Park to full capacity on June 17, 2021, we were ready to welcome our fans back to the ballpark as a significant step for San Diegans to begin returning to normalcy.
Security: How are you ensuring compliance with local, state and federal mandates on safety and security?
Dooley: In March of 2020, our organization immediately developed a COVID-19 task force. This group was tasked with reviewing all local, state and federal health and safety mandates and ensuring that our key stakeholders were briefed. Once briefed, we would begin developing procedures to meet each of these needs for our minimal operational staff that was not working from home.
By taking this approach, we were able to not only develop internal operational procedures that met our local, state and federal guidelines but craft real-time communication plans. This ensured that our staff remained aware of any restrictions and updates to our levels of access to the facility and our current policies and procedures.
In addition to this, we collaborated with the county of San Diego to provide the county of San Diego with our documented plans and executed site visits with the county of San Diego to ensure that our protocols met the county of San Diego’s guidelines.
Security: Could you tell us about your emergency hotline, launched in partnership with AlertMedia?
Dooley: Our staff stayed up to date with any updates to our levels of access and updates to our COVID-19 and ballpark operating procedures by receiving all staff emails from our Human Resources department and posting information on our Friarnet. In addition, we conducted all staff calls to ensure that staff was aware of updates and department heads streamlining relevant communication to each of their assigned team members.
During 2020 we partnered with AlertMedia and have completed building the back end of our platform. We are in the process of rolling AlertMedia out as an additional emergency management notification system for our team members.
Security: In addition to partnerships, how are you optimizing existing or new technology to keep your facility secure and mitigate risks associated with COVID-19?
Dooley: During the start of COVID-19, our 2020 MLB season was suspended. Due to this, our operational team launched a challenge to begin reviewing any enhancements that we would recommend making to our operations and procedures. In doing so, our Security and Transportation department placed a heavy emphasis on enhancing some of our major technology platforms. Upon review, we identified our 24/7 Software, which serves as our incident management system and our access control systems, including our CCTV system and proximity card reader system, as the two items that we would like to focus our enhancement efforts on.
Before the pandemic began, we partnered with Hillard Heintze to build a new Shelter-In-Place and Active Shooter plan. In doing so, we emphasized reviewing our architectural maps for every level to ensure that our staff is aware of areas of refuge.
In conducting this exercise, we felt that it was also vital to ensure that our incident management system and access control systems mirrored our architectural plans and that all team members were not only aware of our procedures but the correct nomenclature of each area of our ballpark.
This allowed us to completely re-construct our 24/7 Software platform and transition to their updated Version 4. These enhancements included re-building all back-end data to ensure that reports could be accurately produced and provide real-time data for our 24/7 Security and Event Operations.
Also, we updated our request tracking systems, lost and founds, fan text messaging and our IMS incident management platform.
We took the same approach with our CCTV system and launched a four-month demonstration with Avigilon. We focused on rolling the Avigilon platform out to our front-line Ballpark Security team with no training so that they could learn all that the platform had to offer and how to apply this to enhance the safety and security of Petco Park. After completing the demonstration, we migrated our CCTV system to the new platform, which allowed us to launch analytical cameras throughout our property, utilize all surveillance features within the Avigilon system and integrate them into our new ACM access control system.
In addition to these two significant projects, we also launched a new credentialing system, drone detection software and social media monitoring platform.
While updating 24/7 Software and Avigilon can sound like major overtaking, we did not launch these products to become better by deploying technology. Instead, our first step was to review the current operating procedures that our staff utilized when using these systems to ensure that they received the proper training and resources to use both software successfully.
Once our new and enhanced processes and procedures for 24/7 Software and Avigilon were memorialized, we then re-trained all team members to ensure that the technology provided by these systems was truly used as an accelerator to make our operations better. I believe that technology should not define our processes but instead should assist in achieving the goals and day-to-day procedures that make up our various operating procedures.
Security: What is your advice for other security leaders on best practices to secure sporting events, facilities/stadiums, and fans and players in a post-COVID-19 world?
Dooley: In going through the challenges of COVID-19, I believe that as members of not just the Sports and Entertainment industry, but my local community, that each of us has been provided with an excellent opportunity to be able to relate to our neighbors and to grow through each of our individual and group challenges and successes. My advice to security leaders is to find organizations and groups that you can network with to review incidents, learn from each other’s successes, and build on best practices that have been happening throughout our industry, sector and country to make your team better as a whole.
I also believe it is safe to say that none of us saw COVID-19 coming or our country shutting down, and daily life was disrupted the way it did. Through this, I would challenge everyone to analyze their current operations and begin conducting safety and security assessments of your facility and operation. For some security professionals, this may be starting at square one. If this is the case, you will need to be prepared to gain buy-in and begin building programs and policies and procedures to launch into your business. Others may be well past this phase, and my challenge for them would be to find a specific area of your operation that you would like to get better at and then focus on that project until it is perfected.