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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