Put Security in the Pole Position for the Greatest Spectacle in Racing

The roar of engines will be heard this week from the world renowned Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) as drivers prepare for the Memorial Day weekend tradition of the annual running of the Indianapolis 500. Of course with cars racing at speeds of 200+ mph, serious safety and emergency management concerns are intrinsic to this sport. Car racing is one of the few events where more attention needs to be paid to the participants than the spectators. That being said, a tremendous amount of security goes into the design, creation, and implementation of a holistic security plan for the protection of the fans as well as the racers. I offer some of the major areas that need to be addressed, which are just a few of the challenges that need to be detected, deterred, delayed, and denied.

Letting the Trojan Horse Inside the City Gates 

Just imagine not only being allowed to bring your own cooler to a sporting event but also packing it with almost anything except for firearms, hand grenades, illegal drugs, and glass bottles (which can be used as a projectile if your driver drops a transmission). Yes, the IMS allows quite a liberal assortment of items, inevitably raising the bar on the issues associated with protecting the site. Because of this policy, a strong focus on preparing the security officers and law enforcement personnel manning the entrance gates starts with sufficient training in the proper searching and screening techniques to identify contraband and prohibited items. You cannot expect your gate staff to know how to inspect containers and packages without being taught what to look for and how to look for it. Also, they’ll need the necessary equipment such as flashlights, batons, metal detectors, vehicle mirrors, and if possible, drug-sniffing and/or explosive-detection canines. With the proper resources along with adequate education and awareness, your access points will be hardened along with the venue.

Gentleman, Start Your Engines—but Please Don’t Light a Match!    

Did you know that on the day of the Indy 500 race more than 10,000 gallons of fuel are on the property? The primary security issue here is two-fold: securing the fuel tanks against destruction and having a plan in place if a toxic spill requires cleanup. Adding fuel to the fire (pun intended) is the heat in late May and the close proximity to the fans of Gasoline Alley that stores all of this hazardous material. The best ways to protect the storage containers boil down to the implementation of various security measures like fencing, barriers, video surveillance, locked access points, sensory devices, alarms, and the posting of security personnel. The HAZMAT mission is to respond to a release of a hazardous material, recognize the situation as one requiring specialized assistance, have the capability to contain the spill, and possess the skills and resources necessary to render the situation safe—another example of the need for proper staffing and skill sets on site, this time to mitigate a chemical or biological incident.

Protecting Life in the Fast Lane

With more than 300,000 people attending the race, thousands of staff working the event, and hundreds of racers and pit crew participating in the 500-mile battle, the IMS needs to be prepared to provide general first aid and more serious medical attention as well as deal with a possible mass casualty situation. This potential incident requires proper planning and preparation including a pre-designated triage area to sort injured people into groups based on their need for, or likely benefit from, immediate medical treatment. Because the designated area must accommodate a large number of people, the infield is the likely location for a triage area as well as a decontamination (DECON) area where individuals can be cleansed to remove contaminants such as micro-organisms, hazardous materials, chemicals, and radioactive substances. Coordination with HAZMAT ensures the proper staffing and supplies of disinfection, antisepsis, and sterilization supplies are available.

So, Is That All We Need to Protect the Old Brickyard?

No, that’s not all that is needed to protect this historic venue affectionately known as the Old Brickyard. I wish it were that easy to only address access control, emergency medical, and hazardous materials to ensure safety. But of course we must consider crowd control, bomb sweeps, alcohol management, ticket scalping, drug trafficking, and lost children, just to name a few. A major event like the Indy 500 requires year-round planning. After the winner takes his or her victory chug of milk, safety, security, and law enforcement personnel will convene an after action meeting to talk through all of the measures that were implemented and candidly acknowledge what went well and what could have gone better. Most professionals agree that experience matters—you’ll learn more from being on the ground during one of these events than you will from reading a manual. After being involved in the security operations for an event like the Indy 500, you’ll be sure to see the checkered flag as you prepare for your next event.

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Run For The Roses But Not For Your Life

The beginning of May welcomes the first jewel of the Triple Crown of thoroughbred horse racing. Otherwise known as the Run for the Roses, the Kentucky Derby is probably the most famous horse race in the world and draws spectators from across the globe. With the Preakness in Baltimore and the Belmont Stakes in New York completing the trifecta, these prominent equestrian events represent tremendous undertakings from a security perspective. The media spotlight alone raises the stakes because it offers a global platform for nefarious activity. A terrorist group could place one of these venues in its crosshairs, motivated by the worldwide coverage associated with these pinnacles of the racing world.

It’s More Than Just a Horse Race  

After personally performing security work at some prestigious horse racing events, I am familiar with the nuances and dynamics that are indigenous to this culture and environment. At a minimum, a week-long series of parties, galas, and functions precedes race day. As corporate sponsors wine and dine their most valuable clients, these increased entertainment occasions call for increased security. Executive protection specialists, armed and unarmed security officers, and off-duty law enforcement are the usual suspects enlisted to safeguard and protect the people attending and the properties playing host to these gatherings.

What Happens in the Infield Stays in the Infield  

If you have never been to the infield for one of these events, you should add it to your bucket list. As this sub-culture takes on a life of its own, the infield performances might frighten the faint of heart. I have witnessed the following: mud wrestling (clothing optional), intimacy (yup, that kind of intimacy), drug usage (enough to fail a 10 panel drug test), alcohol poisoning (e.g., too many Mint Juleps, among other things), physical altercations (donnybrooks), and even running porta potty roof top races (just go to You Tube and search Kentucky Derby Porta Potty Run). With all of this extracurricular activity comes a number of security and safety issues that should be considered in emergency preparedness planning.

Be Prepared—And I’m not Talking About the Boy Scouts 

Adequate staffing of emergency medical personnel on site to treat people is a top priority. After all, mud wrestlers will need first aid to treat their wounds and infections! All kidding aside, these activities can and probably will require additional safety and security attention. Obviously, not all intimacy is consensual so treatment options must be available for any victim of sexual assault. The perfunctory drug activity at these events has typically resulted in a number of overdoses so security and medical personnel must be prepared with the proper medications. As unconsciousness, choking, and vomiting are signs of alcohol overindulgence, security professionals need to stand ready to attend to victims in an expeditious manner. The Porta Potty Run will undoubtedly produce a number of broken limbs as the combatants fall from the tops of these structures, so ambulances need to be available to transport the injured to local hospitals.

Yeah, but What About the Rest of the Site?

We must also turn our attention to the security concerns of the horses, jockeys, trainers, owners, families, celebrities, public officials, workers, and, of course, spectators. Although they won’t present the same issues as their friends in the infield, the people in a packed grandstand also deserve a safe and secure experience. Crowd control, alcohol management, seat integrity (ensuring patrons are in the right seats), pick pocketing, counterfeiting, and scalping are typical security challenges associated with a large-scale sporting event.

Other issues jockeying for position in your list of security concerns are traffic control, parking lot management, vehicle access, delivery screening, and an emergency evacuation plan in case of a weather event or bomb threat. All of these respective areas need to be addressed and countered with a specific plan that has been properly vetted by the multitude of public and private entities responsible for protecting the people, assets, and property at the event. By recognizing and tackling these moving parts, you can bet your event security plan will be a hands down winner just like at the Run for the Roses.

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