75,000 Fans, 100 Million Viewers and One Huge Responsibility: Security at the Super Bowl
While most of the focus of Super Bowl LIII is on the game itself and the fan experience, it is also important to think about what goes on behind the scenes. In a world of hyper-security and threats from every angle, what does it really take to secure the big game?
The need to secure the world’s most watched event has become a necessity. But most of the security features and manpower will not make the news. However, there is nothing that can be left to chance because of the extremists that might wish to do harm on the world stage. There is a balance that has to be kept in line with allowing fans to have a great experience without fear, while also making their presence known so that there is a very clear statement that this event will be safe and secure.
Planning Essential to Security
First, it starts with planning. Officials in Atlanta are explicit in telling the world their plans, but Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields has commented that the city has worked with more than 40 state, federal, and local agencies to develop its plan to secure the area around the Mercedes-Benz stadium along with additional areas that are competing for fans’ attention. That included meeting with the current director of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen.
This plan did not just start a few weeks ago like how the LA Rams and New England Patriots game planned. This has been in the works for at least two years.
City Learned from Olympic Games, Leaves Nothing to Chance
For the actual feet on the ground, officers will work 12-hour shifts and will be in place to react to any recognized threat. Unfortunately, Atlanta has experience with being on this type of stage and dealing with a terrorist plot. During the 1996 Olympic Games, a pipe bomb exploded at Centennial Olympic Park, killing one and hurting more than 100 others.
Atlanta officials learned valuable lessons from this incident, and they are not taking any chances this Sunday. That same park is a site for concerts and other activities, and now it is enclosed with chain-link fencing to make it less accessible.
The stadium itself, which opened in 2017, is secure by design. The NFL actually rated it the number one stadium in terms of security.
Thousands of Law Enforcement Officials Will Be on Hand
Manpower is possibly the most important aspect of the plan. ESPN reports that 5,000 law enforcement professionals and 180 canines will be in place to thwart any violent or terrorist plots. These would include officials in uniform and those in plain clothes. In addition to boots on the ground, 75 to 100 officials will be manning the city’s Joint Operations Center, which allows them to have an eagle eye on all the areas in and around the stadium. The Atlanta Public Safety Center says the center will house “incident commanders.” Those incident commanders will be at 13 different locations throughout the city.
Communication is key amongst all the different groups and locations. Each morning, they are starting with a briefing to talk about what happened in the past 24 hours and what to expect for the next day.
New Technology Creates Need for New Protocols
Another precaution put in place is to ban drones, something that security officials have had to learn how to deal with, as they have the capability to be used for nefarious reasons. The entire area will be drone-free.
All eyes will be on the sure-handed quarterbacks Sunday night, but thousands of other eyes will be watching just about everything else to ensure the big game is incident-free.
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