By Charlie Howell
Charlie Howell is Senior Associate at Wrightson, Johnson, Haddon & Williams, Inc. in Dallas, Texas. He specializes in designing security systems for stadiums, convention centers and other large public spaces.
The public perception of a security guard casually watching monitors at a desk couldn’t be further from reality in the modern stadium’s command center. The real picture is one of security professionals using tightly integrated technologies to perform an array of activities including proactive monitoring, assigning credentials, arming of alarms and coordination with distributed security personnel and the authorities.
Stadiums are complex. They have dozens of entrances, exits and zones. They house thousands of people with varying degrees of access including paying attendees, sports teams, vendors and maintenance staff. Keeping all of this secure requires a range of security technologies. And tying it all together is the Security Command Center – the cockpit where all security activity is controlled. From the design phase, to technology acquisition and integration to training and operations, a Security Command Center requires careful planning to be effective.
Room selection, design and layout
Selecting a room for the Security Command Center is a critical element for long-term efficacy. The room is best located centrally within the overall stadium and ideally does not have any windows. A lack of windows serves a dual purpose: first, it stops anyone from seeing into the hub of security and second, it reduces potential for distraction.
The needs of the stadium may expand with time and necessitate more coverage, so the Security Command Center should be designed with this in mind from the start. The size, design and layout of the room should allow for 2x growth. That means if there are two stations with monitors, you need to accommodate expansion to four.
Technology selection and integration
Selecting the right mix of technology for the Security Command Center requires consideration of current and future needs. It’s important to get a holistic view of the technology landscape (what’s available now and what will be available soon). Most often, it’s best to select modern but tried-and-true technology. What’s important is that the operators in the Security Command Center can do their jobs effectively. Out of a long list of capabilities, usually only a couple dozen end up being critical.
When selecting the technology base – the main system everything will connect to and run from – it’s important that it is able to handle integrations with other technologies, as no single system or tool will suffice. Once the technology base is selected, it’s a matter of thinking through all the scenarios that need to be covered and assessing what other technology is required.
Education and operation
An operator’s ability to ensure security throughout the stadium depends on his understanding of the technology he is using. Once the technology is selected and in place, training must be a priority.
Operations and technology layout are closely related in many ways. One example is the 5-15 / 15-5 rule. This rule states that it’s unrealistic to ask a control room operator to watch more than 15 cameras for five minutes or vice versa. The human brain simply can’t be effective beyond that. Analytics help address this problem, and can be built into the system to enhance situational awareness. For instance, surveillance cameras can track and alert on abnormal behavior such as someone entering through an unauthorized area or even crowds building up in unexpected places.
Keeping a stadium secure is a round-the-clock effort, and a thoroughly planned Security Command Center is essential for security professionals to do their jobs well.