Talking Sports Safety and Security at NCS4

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The country was shaken this spring by the bombings at the Boston Marathon, and though the tragedy highlighted the strength and resilience of the citizens of Boston and the sporting community alike, it also served as a reminder of just how important safety and security are at public events, and, in the face of all the preparation done, just how much more there is to do.

With that in mind, members of the AB staff headed to Orlando this week for the annual National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security (NCS4) Conference and found themselves in good company. As the conference got under way, representatives from professional sports teams, colleges, the military, the FBI, school districts, event planners, police departments, security companies and more put together an extensive list of the security and safety concerns faced by programs today, from active shooter incidents to severe weather alerts and evacuation plans.

How much of a difference will clear bag policies like that recently instituted by the NFL and already in place at countless other events have in deterring potential threats? How can nonprofit organizations afford to do everything needed to keep participants safe within their budget constraints? To what extent do volunteers receive the training necessary to respond in an emergency situation?

While open-air events such as marathons may be at the forefront of everyone's mind, one attendee from the University of Oklahoma noted, "The concept of open air exists for all of us," noting the 2005 student suicide bombing just outside of the university's stadium, passing thousands of fans and potential victims on his way.

As much as the NCS4 conference is about educating and empowering groups to make sure events go on without a hitch, John Bertsch, director of public safety for the Ironman Triathlon in Hawaii, reminded everyone that there is only so much a given security detail can encompass and that event attendees may still play the most crucial role in producing a safe and successful event. Said Bertsch, "You don't need to be trained to spot law enforcement. You can avoid them like the plague. But you can't avoid the crowd."

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