How Security At One the Biggest Major Sporting Events Works
By Mary Kate McGrath, Rave Mobile Safety
On February 4th, the New England Patriots will take on the Philadelphia Eagles at the 52nd Annual Super Bowl, one of the major sporting events of 2018. The event will take place at the U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota and more than 100,000 people will fill the stands. It’s one of the most popular television events of the year, and millions of viewers tune in every year to watch the most successful teams in the NFL compete and catch the famous half-time show. Last year, CNN reported that the Super Bowl drew 111.3 million viewers, making it the fifth-most watched television event in history.
In a year where attacks on public or community spaces and large-scale events drew new concerns about security, fans might be wondering how public officials plan to manage safety at Super Bowl LII. The public safety plan for a high-profile, high-attendance sporting event like the Super Bowl must be comprehensive and will leverage technology and data. The Super Bowl is considered a Level 1 national security event, meaning the national and international profile of the game qualifies it as a credible target for terrorists.
The Minneapolis city government and the Super Bowl Host Committee began planning the stadium’s security detail months in advance. In November, the city was warning residences and business owners that rooftops would be patrolled by snipers, neighborhoods would have restricted access, and lots of security detail would be present
Super Bowl LII Security Plan
The security operation will be a large-scale initiative that will include managing crowds throughout the Twin Cities. Snipers will be strategically placed on rooftops across Minneapolis, and federal officers in full gear will be on the ground. The amount of federal agents on-call for the Super Bowl will be largest in the event’s history, and any equipment that is available, from helicopters to boats, will also be used to patrol the event. “We are prepared for anything that might come our way,” Minneapolis Police Commander Scott Gerlicher told the Star Tribune in November, just before the public was told what to expect as far as local and federal law enforcement presence leading up to the event.
Gerlicher made it clear that the city was prepared for any land or air attack similar the tragic shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas or the vehicle attack in New York City. In previous years, the Super Bowl has brought major security measures to the city it took place in. In 2017, the city of Houston ramped up security with over 60 local, state, and federal agencies coordinating measures. The city opted for a visible law enforcement presence, and a network of over 800 volunteers provided extra Intel. The game took place over a 10 day period, and agencies paid close attention to cameras throughout the city and monitored online. In 2016, San Francisco took similar measures. The Bay Area also brought together relevant agencies to plan security for the event, and it took into account cybersecurity threats.
This year, the security will be an even greater effort. Law enforcement agencies in the surrounding communities will send a percentage of their force to contribute, and the presence will be formidable. According to the Star Tribune, the Twin Cities will be secured by officers from over 60 police departments, 40 federal agencies, approximately 400 members of the National Guard, private security contractors, and a network of volunteers. The security threats range from terrorist attacks to managing crowds of unruly fans of the Eagles or the Patriots. For Minneapolis residents, the increased security presence can be felt – certain roads will be closed in the week before and after the event, and fences and concrete barriers are in place around the stadium as part of a secure perimeter.
The Super Bowl LII security team is also leveraging technology to provide an extra layer of security. The command center that coordinates the security will set up at a secret location near the U.S. Bank Stadium. The center will have access to license plate readers placed around the city, track social media for possible threats, and monitor radiation detectors and hundreds of additional security cameras that have been placed throughout the city. These tools will provide extra eyes and ears throughout the stadium and surrounding areas.
“Our efforts are to make sure that it’s a warm and inviting atmosphere. But make no mistake about it, there are tons of watchful eyes from the law enforcement and public safety sectors,” Alex Khu, the federal coordinator for this year’s Super Bowl, told Fox News. The report comes just a week before the Super Bowl, where architects, engineers, and other urban planning experts have constructed a plan to keep players, guests, and citizens safe.