Stadium terrorism – being ready when crisis strikes

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Are we just holding our breath?

The Paris nightclub bombing, the discovery of a suicide bomber attempting to enter the Stade de France in Paris, the device scare at Old Trafford and the airport bombing in Istanbul, have all stirred fears of terrorism in public venues. No longer is terrorism confined to Middle East hotspots, but instead is taking place in more popular mainstream locations. This is heightening the fear for many sports fans that it’s no longer an isolated threat, but rather one that could eventually hit closer to home.

Imagine a stadium without fans

Will stadium terrorism become for sports what the 9/11 attack was for airlines? After the September 11 attacks, when airliners crashed into the Twin Towers in New York City, air travel came to a standstill. First, there was a federal ban on air travel, and then, when airlines started flying again, passengers were reluctant to travel. I remember flying on the first day after the travel ban was lifted and being only one of six passengers on my flight. It took three years for air travel to return to pre-9/11 levels. If a stadium attack happens, will the government impose a sporting event ban, until security issues can be established, similar to the airline industry?

Can a stadium terrorist attack happen here?

There doesn’t have to be an actual incident to strike fear in fans and prevent them from attending games. It only needs to be a growing perception that venues are targets and unsafe. Even a recent incident with the nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida, can cause fans to think twice about being in a venue with a large group of people congregating.

It doesn’t need to be a local incident to scare fans – just a few isolated incidents in different regions would be enough to create widespread panic across all stadia. The underlying concern for the passengers after the 9/11 attacks was, if it could happen with two or three aircraft, what would prevent it from happening on others? What followed was a comprehensive revamping of security at airports to make passengers feel safe again. Think of your stadium as a 60,000-seat airliner. Then compare how your current security compares to airport security. It’s actually surprising that there hasn’t been a successful stadium terrorism attack yet.

Contingency planning for crisis

It’s not a matter of if there will be a stadium terrorism attack, but rather when. I’m not going to begin to describe potential threat scenarios or security methods – there are many experts much more qualified than me – but what we can do is be proactive and prepare contingency plans in the event of an incident.

Takeaways

1. Be proactive. The key is to plan for the aftermath and recovery from the incident before it happens.

2. Put action plans in place that can be acted on immediately, rather than creating plans in the midst of a crisis.

3. Study what airlines did to win back passengers after 9/11. They’ve been there, done that.

November 10, 2016

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