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Feature

Stadium Security Gets A Boost

Tool identifies strengths of existing security programs as well as areas in need of improvement, and offers best practices.
Stadium Security, security programs, security best practices, vulnerability self-assessment tool available to the operators of large stadiums to help them gauge the se- curity at their facilities.

The tool, already used by the Transportation Security Administration to assess airlines' security exposures and by the Coast Guard to gauge security risks at our nation's ports, will likely be further modified to help other industries identify and fix weaknesses in their security procedures. That's because 85% of the nation's critical infrastructure is operated by the private sector.

It's just common sense to reuse existing technologies in new areas, says Bill Flynn, director of Homeland Security's protective-services division. "They're proven and tested," he says. "Why should we reinvent the wheel?"

Because the new stadium tool is fashioned after software developed and used by Homeland Security, stadium managers feel more confident about its merit, says R.V. Baugus, editor of trade magazine Facility Manager and spokesman for the International Association of Assembly Managers, which partnered with the government to develop the tool. "It's far beyond what they have had before to address this critical need," Baugus says.

The vulnerability self-assessment tool, accessible through a Web portal, incorporates industry safety and security best practices for critical infrastructure to assist in establishing a security baseline for each stadium. Once a baseline is established, the tool identifies the strengths of existing security programs as well as areas that need improvement, letting authorities set priorities for making changes to a stadium's security. Baugus sees the online tool as a complement to other forms of assessment, such as relying on industry publications and security consultants.

The International Association of Assembly Managers, a trade group of stadium, arena, and convention-center operators, approached Homeland Security seeking help to identify security vulnerabilities and worked closely with the government to tailor the tool for its industry. Venue operators and security managers provided government IT developers with information about stadium processes and best practices so the software could be customized to meet their needs. Then stadium security managers tested the tool and vetted the data.

The tool is designed for the country's more than 400 large-capacity stadiums that seat more than 30,000 people. Later this year, it will be made available to operators of arenas, convention centers, and performing-arts centers. "Our goal is to encourage stadium managers to integrate this tool into their standard planning processes and use it throughout the year," Frank Libutti, Homeland Security's undersecretary of information analysis and infrastructure protection, said in a statement.

The department will provide stadium general managers with a password-protected Web address to access the tool, which it describes as easy to use. Key areas the tool focuses on include information security, physical assets, communication security, and personnel security. Examples of specific assessments the tool conducts are employee background checks, security training, and protocols to follow to contact first responders if an emergency exists.

Users will receive comprehensive reports that measure the effectiveness of their facilities' security plans and provide strategies for implementing future improvements. Homeland Security also will maintain a help desk to clarify terminology and assist users with technical issues.

By submitting assessment information to Homeland Security, the department says, stadium operators will be given the ability to compare their security practices with those of other large facilities, though the identity of these facilities will be kept secret. All information given to, and corresponding reports from, the department are confidential and won't be made available to other parties.

Photograph by Chuck Solomon/SI/Icon SMI