The Safe and Secure Campus

Public Space, Public Safety

Safety at school stadium on campus


School safety became more complicated last year. “Paris changed everything,” says Dr. Lou Marciani, director for the National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security at The University of Southern Mississippi. He’s referencing the terrorist events of November 13, 2015, where a highly coordinated effort by three teams launched six distinct attacks in the city and northern suburb of Saint-Denis. One hundred and thirty people were killed and hundreds more injured. The nature and severity of this event, where teams attacked several different venues at once, has altered the way Marciani and other experts think about campus security.

Keeping college campuses safe is challenging enough. Campus police already deal with all kinds of situations and offenses, from vandalism and rowdy crowds to theft and assault. They also reckon with the rise of the active shooter; an event that happens once a month, on average, according to a recent FBI study. Layer a large public facility like a sports stadium or a hospital on top of the campus and the challenges just got greater.

Sports stadiums and hospitals already come with their own specific security challenges. Stadiums invite a mass of extra people onto campus every game time; 104 million fans visit college stadiums each year in the U.S., according to Marciani. He reports that many of them never even go in. Tailgating, he says, has grown into a sport of its own with numbers of fans partying in the parking lot, often exceeding the number of people in the stadium watching the game.

“We’ve done a good job of hardening facilities like Division I stadiums after the attacks of 9/11,” he says. However, Paris teaches him that that’s not enough. “Main streets, restaurants, transportation hubs and even parking lots have all become rich targets,” he says. “The perimeter keeps getting pushed.”

Hospitals are also dangerous in and of themselves, particularly the emergency department. “There has been a marked increase in behavioral health patients in crisis utilizing emergency departments,” says Lisa Terry, CHPA, CPP, director, Hospital Police and Transportation, University of North Carolina Healthcare. “This rise has occurred so quickly that many communities have been caught unprepared.”

Often these patients must be boarded in the emergency department for as long as 30 days while waiting for a psych ward bed to open up. While the behavior of these patients is neither criminal nor intentional it is aggressive, dangerous and puts people at risk, especially health care workers. A fact sheet put out by the Massachusetts Nurses Association notes that 86 percent of that state’s nurses report experiencing some sort of violence on the job in the past two years, including being kicked, punched or having something thrown at them.

Increasing behavioral health incidents add just another risk to an already dangerous location. Emotions run high in hospitals, adding unpredictability to the mix. “Grief, poor patient outcomes and tired, overstressed visitors all contribute to potential risks,” explains Jonathon Wilson, chief administrative officer, University of Mississippi Medical Center and former ER nurse. Wilson also points to rich potential target areas like nuclear medicine or hospital pharmacies as security hotspots.

So what’s a school to do? Campus should be a warm, welcoming environment where people are safe without feeling overly policed. That feeling should extend throughout campus facilities, including stadiums and hospitals. Luckily there are technological solutions like cameras, enhanced communications and analytics that help.

The Gear

Technology like stationary megatometers (metal detectors) and handheld scanners have become commonplace in both stadium and emergency department entrances thanks to their ability to detect hidden weapons. Dr. Marciani, however offers a word of caution. “You have to pay attention to bottlenecks and congestion,” he warns.

Once inside a facility, Marciani suggests a video surveillance system with tracking analytics and a command station dashboard. “You’ve heard the term ‘smart cities?’” he asks. “Well ‘smart stadiums’ is next.” A smart stadium would integrate high-quality video, tracking analytics and social media monitoring to assess and hone in on any potential threat.

Smart stadiums would also take advantage of the “If You See Something, Say Something” Homeland Security campaign which asks citizens — in this case, stadium guests — to text a number correlated to their seating area if they see anything unusual. “The command center would receive the text and zoom in with cameras,” says Marciani. “They can assess the situation, be it a suspicious package or a rowdy fan, and respond accordingly.”

Marciani suggests turning the command center into a profit center by integrating marketing operations. In this scenario, a marketing director is also looking at the dashboard, this time for lines at concessions stands and restrooms so they can provide better service to guests. “The ROI is a command center that allows a holistic look at the environment and the capabilities to secure, operate and market,” says Marciani.

Cameras also have a place on campus hospitals. “We use closed circuit TVs to monitor as much as possible,” says Terry. Other technologies like RFID card readers for access control are common as well.

High-risk areas may have extra layers of protection. Wilson reports requiring retina scanners for access to areas with radiation sources. Terry points to pharmaceutical distributing machines that involve an ID card and thumbprint to work.

Of course communication technology has advanced as well. Hospitals, with their heavy steel construction and lead-lined walls, are notorious dead zones. Terry overcomes this with different technologies that include alarms that staff wear as pendants and radio-over-IP systems that allow communication both within the hospital and out to other agencies.

Brandon Flagan, CEO, COPSynch, stresses the importance of getting crucial information out quickly in times of stress. “911 becomes inundated during an event,” he says. “This makes it hard for dispatchers to get pertinent information to first responders.” Real-time, law enforcement mobile data information systems like COPSynch cut through that and can be integrated with visual cameras to provide visual information as well.

The People

No matter how much safety technology evolves, competent security personnel are still needed on site. Dr. Marciani quotes that over 62 percent of schools outsource their security and stresses the need for a good contract that demands proper background checks. He also strongly suggests background checks and training for stadium ushers and ticket takers.

As they require an extra layer of HIPAA and pathogen training, hospital security personnel are usually university employees. “Both the police and hospital security force are our personnel,” states Wilson. He explains that hospital security get even more training on how to identify and deal with clinical issues, grief management and customers service. “Having the right number of well-trained officers in key places is the best bet for safety.”

This article originally appeared in the issue of .

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