More than 18 months ago, National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security (NCS4) director Lou Marciani reached out to various open-access endurance events leaders to learn more about public safety at their respective events. This action led to the meeting in Houston of various race directors and public-safety personnel for some of the top endurance events in the United States.
"We laid out a plan to engage leaders in the endurance-event industry nationwide to discuss best practices and share experiences and knowledge in an effort to create a scalable best-practices guide to help all directors prepare from a public safety perspective," says Wade Morehead, executive director for the Houston Marathon.
That plan officially began taking shape last December when more than 100 of the nation's leading marathon governing bodies, organizers, directors/administrators, medical practitioners and community public safety personnel gathered at The University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg for the first annual Marathon Safety and Security Best Practices Summit.
For three days, attendees worked together to establish a variety of safety and security best practices for marathons and other endurance events based on the following criteria: event day planning; crowd dynamics/management; emergency-action planning; risk and threat assessment; staff performance and training; and technology.
There was no shortage of ideas at this groundbreaking summit. Says Peter Delaney, executive director for RunVermont, home of the Vermont City Marathon, "From simple hints like where to source clear bags for gear checks to complex planning tools offering computer simulations for crowd flows in and around an event, there was plenty to learn, regardless of one's experience in the field."
Significant information was collected from attendees that will help comprise the first edition of the best practices document. Once the first draft is completed and compared with existing industry safety and security best practices, studies and research, it will be sent back to attendees for review. Those comments and feedback from attendees will then be incorporated into the final version for publication.
Among the best practices submitted for possible inclusion:
• Exchanging business cards with key parties and developing relationships before the event
• Successful planning beginning with effective risk/threat assessment
• Embracing and better defining the Incident Command Center as it relates to marathons
• Developing consolidated planning so each entity's plan is not redundant or isolated
• Planning, training and exercising as a means to understanding roles and responsibilities
• Establishing public-private collaboration as a path to success
• Selecting and employing the proper technology as an effective force multiplier
The introduction of the first edition of the Marathon/Endurance Events Best Practices Guide for Safety & Security will take place during the NCS4 annual conference in Orlando, Fla., in July.
"As the world continues to be a dynamic place, as an industry we have to advance our capabilities," Delaney says. "If we want to keep attracting an audience — be it runners, spectators, volunteers or sponsors — we're going to have to show that we're ready for the unexpected."
This article originally appeared in the Spring 2015 issue of Gameday Security with the title "Setting the Pace"