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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