SuperSize Security

By Michael A. Gips


One group representing the disabled planned to protest limited access for the handicapped at the stadium. But by tackling the problem early on, the SDPD and NFL were able to remedy many of the group's concerns, making it less likely that the group would protest after all.

Special events

The jumble of agencies and organizations with widely varying functions must somehow put together the show behind the show that millions of people will witness. The Xs and Os of securing the two weeks of events leading to the big game make the Dallas Cowboys' playbook seem like a grade-school primer.

Though the SDPD has the lead role in the overall security effort, especially in patrolling and crowd control, the NFL also plays a primary role in establishing baseline security requirements for its events, providing contract security officers and other protection personnel to protect the teams and venues, and facilitating communication between the agencies providing safety and security services.

The competing football teams themselves may also plug in their own security when necessary. While protection at any given site will differ, many of the planning components of the events, especially the NFL productions, are consistent.

The NFL first surveys each venue, reviewing the site's internal security force in the process. Ahlerich stresses the importance of using a venue's own forces when appropriate. "People who know the venue are critical," he says, because they are intimately familiar with specifics such as emergency doors, evacuation response times, and the like. Still, the NFL usually asks the venue to make special adjustments for the event. One special demand for the Super Bowl is a rigorous protocol for bomb sweeps around Qualcomm Stadium.

Further, the NFL tries to control arrival of guests to avoid panic or stampedes. Before events, it also schedules dry runs with supervisory staff to detect potential problems. For example, the NFL might check escalators to see whether their direction can be reversed in case of an evacuation.


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