Post-pandemic realities: Safely and securely bringing sports back to America

Brian Harrell, assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security discusses the importance of stadium security and how the organization is working with stadium managers to provide risk mitigation in the wake of Covid-19 and beyond.

America’s love for sports is unquestionable. At the core of the American way of life, sports and entertainment events that draw endless cheering crowds were largely taken for granted before the coronavirus pandemic imposed an unexpected halt a few months ago. Now, as the country cautiously moves towards reopening, the reconvening of such activities will be a critical part of the nation returning to a level of normalcy.

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), as the nation’s risk advisor, is continuously engaging with stadium managers to provide risk mitigation resources and guidance to help them navigate the challenges of reopening such public venues in the coming months. Beyond the health-safety precautions to minimize the spread of the virus, stadium managers will play an important role in enhancing security of the entertainment venues during these unprecedented times.

In the past few years, our nation has experienced many violent attacks in places where our communities should feel safest. The open nature of these public locations makes them vulnerable, which is why CISA considers them “soft targets”. As America reopens, it is essential to remind ourselves that, in addition to working to keep fans, staff, and players safe from COVID-19 by following the guidelines provided by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Health and Human Services (HHS), it is equally as important to sustain security efforts to mitigate potential attacks.

Reviewing security plans, refreshing roles and responsibilities, and even conducting training or exercises prior to the season beginning is crucial to a safe return to normalcy. New security protocols for social distancing and other COVID-19 safety measures will require advanced planning and, in the near-term, likely more oversight on entry control points than before the restrictions.

CISA offers resources to support stadium managers across the country with preparedness and response activities through regional staff who provide vulnerability assessments and risk mitigation advice. The agency has made available various guides for developing and implementing security procedures at public assembly venues. Additionally, CISA offers training and resources that enhance prevention, protection, response, and mitigation capabilities associated with the use of explosives.

CISA provides other resources, such as active shooter preparedness, that support organizations in developing emergency action plans and individuals in considering actions (e.g., run, hide, fight) to mitigate the impacts of an attack, and comprehensive packages that allow organizations to conduct independent tabletop exercises. Organizations have access to over 50 exercise packages that are available via the Homeland Security Information Network (HSIN) Critical Infrastructure community. Most importantly, all of CISA’s services are free of charge and can be done remotely.

As Americans look forward to cheering again for their favorite team, it is important that public-private sector information sharing and coordination continues to ensure this happens in a safe environment. The lessons learned from the pandemic should only serve to enhance the resilience of our security measures as the country reopens.

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