Two years ago, while picking up my oldest daughter from school, I was overwhelmed with anxiety, fear and one all-consuming thought: Get her home.
I felt sick to my stomach and was struggling to process everything. Neighborhood fathers were standing outside every door at school, while many parents in the car pick-up line were crying uncontrollably. While I did not cry uncontrollably, I did cry when my first-grade daughter appeared. The reason? A few hours earlier, a person had killed 20 elementary students and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., in the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. high school or grade school history, and second to only the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings in terms of all school levels.
The sickening reality is that this is the world we live in, where monsters lurk to prey on the innocent and defenseless. They have no bias and no one — regardless of age, gender or race — is safe. Active-shooter incidents have risen over the past decade, and despite numerous gun-control efforts, this is something unlikely to change in the short-term. Those looking for guns are going to find them, and there's nothing we can do about that. But there very much is something we can do about guns finding their way into our schools or events, and that's going to be a core focus of the spring issue of Gameday Security. We're exploring what is being done and what can be done to better protect your events and facilities against an active shooter?
This is a hot topic that many are debating, even the Gameday Security team. When evaluating cover options for the spring issue, we were faced with the question of what is too much, and are we going too far with our cover image? This can also apply to active-shooter preparation: how much is too much? Are we doing enough or are we taking it too far? I go back to metal detectors because they are one of the surest ways to protect against active shooters, yet so few sporting events utilize this technology out of fear of impacting the fan experience. Not to pick on high schools, but there is virtually nothing done in terms of spectator screening, and these are some of the most volatile environments with passionate fans and teenagers in such close proximity to one another. Every week, you're hearing about fights at basketball or football games. Now just imagine if one of those fans involved in those fights had a gun on them. All it would take is one major incident, and you will suddenly see some form of metal-detection screening at every marquee event at every high school.
If you scoff at the idea of this type of screening at your event, check out the Major League Baseball article that will also be appearing in the spring issue. Starting Opening Day this year, all stadiums must have some form of metal-detection screening in place. MLB isn't reacting to an incident at a ballpark, it is demonstrating what it truly means to be proactive and value fan safety at the highest level. Of course there will be some bumps early on, but at the end of the day, MLB recognizes that fans want to feel safe and deem it their responsibility to put the best security measures in place to ensure that safety.
Sports security is a fluid process, and there is never going to be that perfect recipe for success. I've been very fortunate to speak with many of the top minds in this industry, all of whom are committed to improving their individual processes. This extends beyond the traditional threats, like an active shooter. Think about unmanned aircraft systems. Were you looking to the skies a couple years ago concerned about these things? Of course not, but you are now. And while you think you may have the right plan in place to address this issue, how confident are you in that plan? NCS4 is hosting a can't-miss forum on unmanned aircraft systems at their annual conference in July that I highly recommend, by the way.
I want to strongly encourage the Gameday Security community to utilize this important tool for idea-sharing and collaboration, two of the most important elements to sports security and safety. We can't rely on annual conferences or quarterly magazines for information and ideas, we need to be actively engaging on a regular basis. We will soon be launching a social media platform to support Gameday Security where the global sports security community can connect to collaborate on how to better protect the people we love and the sports we love. Stay tuned.