Stadium Safety and Security Is Custom-made
04.04.2011 - It is inevitable that safety and security problems will arise when many people come together in a confined space. This is especially true for sports stadiums, where emotions often ...
It is inevitable that safety and security problems will arise when many people come together in a confined space. This is especially true for sports stadiums, where emotions often run high. The range of incidents that organizers and security personnel have to be prepared for extends from pick-pocketing and aggressive behavior - often under the influence of alcohol - through to fire and bomb threats. In addition, the supporters of two different teams frequently have to be physically separated in stadiums, because violent "fans" not only endanger themselves, but can also trigger mass panic in extreme cases.
Safeguarding work often begins a long time before the event itself. Police officers accompany soccer fans who are known to be violent on the journey to away games. Border controls have even been reinstated for international tournaments within the Schengen area. The goal is to take preventive action in the build-up to the event and to avoid foreseeable security incidents at the venue.
Video Surveillance as a Valuable Tool
While measures such as these prior to the event are always very specific, depend on the current situation and are of a predominantly organizational character, safety and security at stadiums themselves are usually based on the same fundamental principles. Stadium operators generally require comprehensive video surveillance systems allowing them to efficiently monitor all areas and activities. This enables them to immediately detect fires, emergencies and threats. Video systems also help to detect potentially hostile groups at an early stage to curb the risk of riots and violence. Further, they can include outside cameras to continuously monitor groups approaching, entering or leaving the stadium.
In the event of a fire or other emergency event, it is vital to maximize safety by evacuating the stadium. Therefore escape routes must be established, marked and kept free - another area where video surveillance can come in useful. As a panic is often even more dangerous than the event that triggered it, clear announcements are of utmost importance to support coordinated evacuation and to keep everything under control. Modular public address and voice evacuation systems are therefore required which allow operators to make announcements in certain zones only or everywhere at once. Professional audio equipment such as the Dynacord or Electro-Voice brands from Bosch can often serve other purposes as well - many modern sports stadiums are designed to also host concerts and other cultural events. Such systems are widely used in Olympic and world cup stadiums as well as in large indoor venues.
False Alarms Are Not an Option
Fire breaking out within or near a stadium is a major threat. It is essential to quickly detect, locate and verify a fire in order to contain it and protect people and property. However, false alarms must be avoided at almost any cost. They might trigger an unnecessary and costly evacuation and - in a worst case scenario - even lead to panic. Fire panels and detectors must therefore apply multiple intelligent criteria to ensure fast, reliable detection under a variety of conditions. Modular systems like Bosch's Modular Fire Panel 5000 Series maximizes flexibility, e.g. for future expansion as in the Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria, the home of the Vodacom Bulls Rugby Team and one of the venues of the 2010 Soccer World Cup. One fire panel had been installed during construction of the stadium itself, while three more panels were added later in a second section of the complex. All panels are networked and operated as a single system, allowing flexible configurations with central management and operations.
While the main purpose of a stadium is to host as many spectators as possible, not all facilities should be accessible to everybody. A large sports stadium is typically divided into public and non-public areas, each with specific security requirements. The public areas include the arena seating, parking garage, access roads, entrances and corridors, restaurants, and food and beverage corners. Non-public areas include the changing rooms, offices, press center and other facilities such as treatment rooms and business lounges. Furthermore stadiums often house additional businesses like offices and shops. Most of these non-public areas require intrusion detection and access control systems to make sure that only authorized individuals are able to get in. These systems again can work hand in hand with video surveillance which enables early detection of suspicious behavior such as loitering or walking in off-limits areas. A "forensic search" function enables fast retrieval of relevant video sequences.
While the planner's focus was previously on the pure functionality of the individual safety and security systems, integration of these individual systems is now viewed as a matter of great importance. For example, fire protection and evacuation are now so closely linked that the advantages of integration with a common, centralized control center are evident. But the inclusion of video surveillance, for example, in this control center can also increase safety and security considerably. Potential fire hazards and blocked emergency exits can then be recognized at an early stage. Those in charge of operations are thus able to manage an evacuation in great detail based on the general situation at the time. In serious cases, this "real-time capacity" resulting from the integration of video surveillance can save many lives. With its Building Integration System, Bosch even goes one step further and provides a single web-based control point for monitoring all security, safety and building management systems. It seamlessly integrates fire and intrusion alarms, evacuation, access control, CCTV and building automation systems in a single platform.
However, it is not always possible to ensure such close integration of all components, if only because tenders should be requested for the individual areas independently of one another, for business or political reasons. This was the case, for instance, in most of the stadiums in South Africa that hosted the World Cup. In such circumstances, the use of standard technologies gains particular importance, as this is the only way to ensure the real integration of video, fire protection and evacuation systems. The use of Ethernet and IP-based solutions is advisable here in any case to allow a uniform infrastructure to be implemented and the individual components to be combined in a unified control center such as the Building Integration System.
While it is true that all stadiums have fundamentally similar safety and security requirements, no two events are really the same. Even in large stadiums, it makes a difference - with all due respect - whether the visitors are Wolverhampton Wanderers or the mighty Real Madrid, not to mention local groupings. In every individual case, safety and security are thus predominantly matters of organization and planning. However, if the fundamental technical components are in place based on the use of standard technologies, problems can be solved much more easily - and implemented more efficiently.