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Big Game. Big Challenges.

By Net Assets posted 09-05-2018 08:09 AM

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Risk Management |

How much time, energy and focus do independent schools place on the titanic risks that accompany athletic events?

 Article by Steve Mandell, Big Back Pack

In the South, football season has started in earnest; other parts of the country are weeks away from the season’s first kickoff. Either way, athletic events provide a huge and immediate opportunity to examine safety and security procedures at independent schools. I believe it is in our collective best interest to reassess the security focus we place on these events. Safety and security at athletic events have a life of their own, quite different than the regular class day.

Consider developing a working group of administrators and personnel to review the weekly athletic schedule and ensure that a broad plan is in place. Establish an Event Day Plan to guide the actions of the event; facilitate planning; guide supervisors, staff and volunteers; and inform public safety partners. And designate an administrator in charge, such as the athletic director or assistant head of school. This individual should ensure that policies and a written plan clarify how staff will handle all disturbances in conjunction with participating law enforcement agencies, event operations and venue operations for the following crowd control issues:

  • Celebratory disruptions/rioting
  • Civil disturbances/demonstrations
  • Drunk and disorderly conduct
  • Field/court encroachments
  • Fighting
  • Illegal drug use/possession
  • Throwing things
  • Use of vulgar language

 Unlike the regular school day, there may be a large group of visitors on campus who do not necessarily share your school's culture or philosophy about sportsmanship or crowd behavior. Some of your own fans, too, may develop a counter persona when the team hits the field. In my years as head of school, I was forced to speak with our own parents and even have some removed from game venues.

Many schools have been hit by online reviews by visiting parents or athletes who observed poor home-team behavior or felt an event was poorly managed.

Establish a written policy for permitted and prohibited items on or in venues, and for underage drinking and referral to law enforcement. Alcohol, even at the high school level, seems to be a growing issue as tailgating becomes more of a high school experience. Establish and enforce a “no smoking” policy that is typically the same as during the regular school day. Consult your state and local law for prescribed guidelines.

It is also important to be a good host, especially when visiting teams and fans may be prospective families. Think of your home game as an opportunity to broaden your school's fan base. Many schools have been hit by online reviews by visiting parents or athletes who observed poor home-team behavior or felt an event was poorly managed. Be sure the concession stand is well-stocked, the bathrooms are clean and there are plenty of trash and recycling containers. Make sure the lights in the parking areas are operational and the signage is clear as it relates to parking. Likewise, share relevant specific emergency planning information with visiting teams and their fans.

Additional safety and security considerations for athletic events:

  • Test communication equipment in a working environment before each event.
  • Provide appropriate staffing levels based upon anticipated attendance numbers, event type and history, and recognized risks or threats.
  • Create a team to review social media; monitor for situational awareness and threatening information.
  • Develop close coordination with local law enforcement.
  • Maintain emergency ingress/egress routes for public safety vehicles. Monitor parking areas to ensure public access for disabled patrons and open lanes and parking areas for EMS and fire vehicles.
  • Be certain that all open access points are manned and only authorized individuals are permitted to enter. Establish a re-entry policy and enforce it.
  • Patrol or, preferably, man and control parking areas under venue oversight. Make sure that game officials have convenient and safe parking.
  • Know what the league rules and local laws are in relation to flying drones. Have your own policy and enforce it. Both home and visiting teams or fans are way too much into using drones to capture fan and game video.
Steve Mandell is a former head of school who now runs Big Back Pack, which provides executive search and security consulting to educational institutions. His previous contributions to NBOA include “A School Where ‘P’ Means Protection,” on campus security, and “Honor Them with Dignity,” on employee departures. This is based on an article he published on LinkedIn.


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