With the successful conclusion of the world’s largest sporting event, it’s easy to forget the broad sweeping security fears that led up to the games. While there wasn’t a major incident, the public’s concern was not unfounded and raised important questions about what measures are taken to protect athletes and spectators at major sporting events. Zac Buckmiller, a mechanical engineer at Henderson Engineers, sat down with Doug Weis, director of technology, to discuss athlete and fan security.
ZAC: Hi, Doug, thanks for being here. Let’s start by having you tell us about the major considerations for security at such a big, international event. What are the biggest threats? What are the biggest obstacles to overcome?
DOUG: The major considerations are trying to account for potential problems, which have a higher likelihood, but are less threatening, and potential problems, which are less likely, but much more threatening. Our focus at Henderson is on electronic physical systems, such as video surveillance, metal detectors, and access control. However, the structural engineer has a significant role in designing building systems to resist explosive devices, and the architect and civil engineer have a great role in managing the flow of people and vehicles in and around the site. There are operational procedures provided by security staffs that include overt and covert presence, and special units such as K-9 units, horse-mounted units, and special vehicles. Finally, there should be significant coordination with local, state, and federal agencies (law enforcement and others), as well as military units.
During the creation of the venue, the biggest obstacle to overcome falls primarily on the architect. In essence, they need to create a space that is safe, fun, and enjoyable, without it feeling like a prison. During and prior to the event, there needs to be a clear lead person, or group, in charge, who conducts a unified approach to security. They have to be able to gather intelligence from people, groups, and systems, and then understand and distribute information to the group best suited to respond.
ZAC: What are the new technologies or techniques out there that are helping event officials provide the safest environment?
DOUG: I think the most useful advances in technology have come within the video surveillance system area. These systems are now utilizing a vastly superior resolution than we had available just a few years ago, and the networking technology has kept pace with these advancements. We can design system configurations that make facial recognition realistic on a wide scale. With this awesome imaging capability, we also have video analytic tools to watch for things happening that shouldn’t be and, when recognized, create an alert for the system operator. These would be things like using a fixed camera to watch for objects left behind. For instance, the fixed camera would capture an image of a concourse, and would remember what it looks like. If someone were to leave a backpack unattended, after a certain programmed interval, the system would alert the operator of the potential problem. The operator could then dispatch a member of the security team to investigate. Another example might be to capture the face of anyone coming through a certain door, the facial capture could be used to let the operator know if they are, or are not, authorized to be in that space. Again, a security officer could be dispatched if not authorized.
ZAC: What are the best opportunities in your opinion that we can do for all sports structures regardless of event size or scale?
DOUG: Observing and controlling the flow of people and vehicles entering the building. In terms of systems, we suggest video surveillance at venue entry points; hand held, or walk-through metal detection; and some sort of vehicle inspection, whether it be staff searching with mirrors, K-9 units, or under vehicle scanning. Of course, these systems are to enhance what a security team can do; security staff is the most important resource for event day security
ZAC: Thank you, Doug. I appreciate your time today.