In the arena, tens of thousands of fans are cheering as the home team scores or rocking out to a heavy metal band. But behind the scenes, event management officials, facility managers and executives, and emergency response personnel are on the edge of their seats for another reason – worry about the safety and security of the audience.
They rarely have time to watch the game or listen to the band. Their concerns center on inclement weather, accidents, crowd control, fan violence, acts of terrorism such as an improvised explosive device (IED), and the list goes on. “This is a group that has been underserved in terms of training for dealing with large-scale incidents, but that’s changing,” says TEEX Training Director Jason Moats.
A large event is never going to be worry-free, but knowing what to do to prevent, protect against, respond and recover from the unthinkable helps them breathe a little easier. A new course, Sports and Special Events Incident Management (MGT404), helps ensure public safety and security by helping to prepare a multi-discipline team to handle a major incident that could occur at a large venue. Participants come away with a better understanding of the importance of planning and preparing for special events and developing key partnerships before a crisis occurs, says Moats, who is one of the course instructors.
The 16-hour course is a collaborative effort between TEEX’s National Emergency Response and Rescue Training Center (NERRTC) and the University of Southern Mississippi’s National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security (NCS4), which focuses on research, education and outreach efforts in sport event security. The DHS-funded course is offered through the Homeland Security National Training Program operated by TEEX’s National Emergency Response and Rescue Training Center (NERRTC). Incorporating elements of the 20-hour DHS-certified course, Incident Management/Unified Command (MGT-313), the course curriculum is specifically aimed at universities, sports teams, and private or public entities that operate a stadium, arena or other large venue. The course is taught by subject matter experts from TEEX and NCS4.
Course development began in March 2011 and the first pilot course was held in August on the Texas A&M University campus for 33 participants from Texas A&M, Blinn College, Baylor University, local law enforcement and EMS organizations, said Moats of TEEX’s Emergency Services Training Institute. Additional classes have been held at the University of Southern Mississippi, The Ohio State University, Rutgers University, the University of New Hampshire, the University of Kentucky, Vanderbilt University, and will kick off the 2013 Super Bowl preparedness efforts in New Orleans later this month.
Richard Morman, Deputy Chief of The Ohio State University Police, attended the Ohio State class. “Thanks for giving us the opportunity to host the Sport and Special Event Incident Management training,” Morman said. “We are adding a demobilization section to our Football Operations Plan in addition to making sure it is covered in other plans and other events. The Event Management staff at the Schottenstein Center is moving toward more of a Unified Command approach to managing incident response at events.”
“This is a partnership course and team-building session in many ways,” Moats said. “We have attendees from event operations, higher education, athletic departments, emergency response community, but also people who run the concessions in the large venues. The course is important for members of both the public and private sector, who need to work together in a multi-disciplinary team.”
Participants are extolling the value of the multi-disciplinary team approach. One participant commented: “The students each seemed to learn from this course even though they came from a very diverse set of professional backgrounds.” Another said: “This is a great class for a whole community to be a part of that has a large sporting venue or other similar attraction.” Still another added: “As a college/university professional emergency manager, I believe that this course, once it is certified and made available nationally, will greatly benefit our profession in higher education as well as our local neighboring communities.”
The course has been certified by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which will allow it to be offered nationwide under the Homeland Security National Training Program at no charge to jurisdictions or educational institutions that host the course.