After a fight at a football game last September spilled into a parking lot and resulted in a shooting that left one juvenile injured, North Little Rock High School knew it was time to improve security. It would be a daunting task for a number of reasons, not the least of which was NLRHS's recently completed $100 million high school that has numerous entrances and feeds seamlessly into the football stadium. The school also plays host to the Arkansas boys' and girls' state basketball tournaments — both won by Little Rock this past season — that involve welcoming large numbers of revved up fans and athletes within a short window of time.
NCS4 suggests the following tips when considering your screening procedures:
• Ensure extensive pat down and sensitivity training is provided
• Have male employees search male patrons and female employees search female patrons
• Develop procedures and training for screening of small children and disabled patrons
• Test screening equipment and staff performance under live conditions and in real-time with penetration tests
• Codify random screening versus 100 percent screening and have measures in place to avoid allegations of profiling
• Restrict the quantity and type of bags permitted
• Provide 12-inch wooden dowels for screeners to use as a probe and train screeners to never put their hands into containers/purses
Securing the perimeter
Controlling the new facility's many entrances and monitoring activity in two large parking areas were primary objectives. To that end, the school designated entrances for home and visiting fans, as well as a separate entrance for visiting players. Segmenting access in this way has been especially effective when hosting state basketball tournaments, which bring in 12 boys' and 12 girls' teams from all over the state, with games starting midday during one of NLRHS's lunch hours. "All of them had to walk through metal detectors, and we also had wand scanners there to wand anybody who maybe set the alarm off," explains North Little Rock athletic director Gary Davis. "We actually had four [metal detectors] there, we had a back door where all the players come in and had another huge scanner there. We kind of go overboard on it."
After the incident last fall, not to mention a rash of school shootings nationwide since, defining "overboard" in regard to school security has been the subject of considerable debate in America.
At North Little Rock, where 12 of the past 16 home football games have sold out in the run-up to a 2017 state championship season, the school placed an emphasis on monitoring its two expansive parking lots. "We have a parking lot that has over 600 slots in it, another one that has over 200 slots in it," Davis says. "So, we have policemen who we hire to patrol those areas before, during and after the games. Our facility is pretty well lit up because it's new, and we have a state-of-the-art camera system that we use, so we have everything on camera if it happens at our facility or around our facility, and that's a big deterrent."
Importance of training
While securing NLRHS facilities with additional metal detectors and cameras has been a big help, training and planning have been equally important. To meet this need, the school brought in consultant Jay Hammes, president of Safe Sport Zone.
"Jay talked to our school resource officers and police to develop an emergency action plan and what the main objectives are for those people when they're working games," Davis says. "He focused on how they can be proactive and keep things from getting to a point where you're going to have an incident."
Davis says Hammes was instrumental in instructing employees on what to look for at a large event. "We want to make sure that they're not just standing around talking and watching the games," he says. "They're actually observing the crowd and seeing if there are any behaviors that need attention."
Hammes notes the size of North Little Rock's facilities as a challenge. "They have facilities that look like those at some small colleges," he says, noting that a lot of attention was paid to securing the school's perimeter. "A majority of the problems in high schools happen either in the concessions area or in the parking lot. So, we have to move our people out there, and we have to have a plan for after that game, especially in the parking lots or along the perimeter."
Hammes says his training also focused on ensuring that employees understand their responsibilities and how to use the tools at their disposal. "After working with Gary and his group, I came back and worked with their security director and the people who actually run the events," he says. "We really had a lengthy training. We went through everything from visual searches to how to use the handheld metal detectors — very practical training."
This article originally appeared in the July|August 2018 issue of Athletic Business with the title "Defense: How one high school secured its stadium and arena after a shooting." Athletic Business is a free magazine for professionals in the athletic, fitness and recreation industry. Click here to subscribe.