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Keeping Sporting Events Safe: Are You Doing Enough?

Spectators demand and deserve to be safe when attending high school games. That’s a difficult challenge to meet, which is why schools rely on emergency management agencies to help protect venues, spectators, players and officials. Unfortunately, trained personnel are not always in attendance at games and other after-school events.

Thanks to the ongoing support of American Family Insurance, Safe Sport Zone trained more than 7,000 school officials in 2014 to create and maintain a secure game-day environment.

I’ve always said that people detectors are better than metal detectors, which is why I teach secu-rity laypeople a technique developed by Michael Dorn from Safe Havens International called “pattern-matching recognition” — stationing law enforcement officers, administrators and key event workers at the gate as fans enter to look for suspicious behavior. Please don’t confuse this with “profiling,” which is identifying individuals based solely on physical characteristics and should never be allowed. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has made clear that profiling is “misguided and ineffective” and can “waste precious resources and undermine the public trust.” Pattern-matching recognition ignores physical characteristics and focuses on activity.

Here are other ways to keep your events safe and secure for all attendees and participants:

Outside the Venue
• Screen the gate by prohibiting bags larger than 12-by-12-by-12 inches; large carry-ins encour-age easy concealment of weapons.
• Require everyone attending an event to provide a photo ID; doing so surrenders anonymity and forces potential troublemakers to think twice.
• Use metal detectors in high-risk situations; they imply your team is serious about security.

Inside the Venue
• Equip event staff members with pocket video recorders.
• Train workers to scan their assigned crowd sections every 30 seconds, looking for and antici-pating obnoxious behavior, disgruntled facial expressions and hostile remarks. Keep a close eye on individuals creating a stir in the stands.
• Understand the important role the public address announcer plays in maintaining the peace.

Keeping interscholastic sporting events safe should be a top priority for school administrators. The days of thinking “that will never happen here” are long gone, and thorough preparation is our best defense.

RELATED: Managing Bad Parental Behavior at High School Games

Jay Hammes, CMMA, is the president and founder of Safe Sport Zone and is the recently retired head athletic director for the Racine (Wis.) Unified School District. For more information, contact him at, visit or call Jay at 262-989-7711.

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