Death Valley is the intimidating home field of LSU football where, on any given Saturday in the fall, the number of tailgating, non-ticket-holding fans can equal the 100,000+ entering the gates to watch their beloved Tigers. It's a security nightmare that requires meticulous planning, flawless execution, and a little help from your friends in the industry.
Last month, in the shadow of that very stadium, LSU hosted the second annual Intercollegiate Safety and Security Summit, hosted by NCS4. The focus was on evaluating the best practices established at last year's inaugural summit, improving upon those practices and establishing new best practices, if necessary. It is a place where innovation, information and collaboration intersect in a wonderfully unique idea-sharing environment. No one voice dominates in this scenario; it is strictly panel discussions and intimate roundtable meetings on a variety of subjects. The summit included many first-time attendees, including yours truly.
There were so many things that stood out during the three-day summit. The powerful keynote address by FBI powerhouse Jennifer Gant. The tour of Tiger Stadium. The bus of shame (inside joke). The wonderful feedback I received from those reading the first issue of Gameday Security at the Summit. But what really stood out was the soundbites, the comments from some of the most brilliant collegiate athletics/security minds in the country. For example, one comment that resonated in particular came from an emergency management panelist, who said that 50 percent of his time is devoted to selling and convincing people to prepare and invest in something that may never happen.
That, at the core, is one the biggest security challenges on the school level. How do you convince the powers-that-be to invest the necessary money and resources into something that they likely view as a waste of money and resources? As Dr. F. King Alexander, president and chancellor at LSU, put it, the unexpected is growing, and we have to anticipate. Budget restrictions are a real challenge, but Russ Simons from Venue Solutions Group said it best: "You may not be able to do everything, but do something."
One of the hotter topics was collaboration, and the importance of university police, athletics, city police, university parking, university health and safety, etc., all working together to discuss game operations. And, of course, technology was a core focus. No best practices meeting is complete without discussing the innovative technology that is reshaping safety and security practices on the collegiate level. There is newer technology that is just starting to impact colleges and universities, such as ITC Security Partners' Vapor Wake detection dogs that can detect hidden explosives on moving targets, or TRAMEDIC's Trauma Kit Cube. But the technology heavyweight in attendance was the ISS 24/7 incident management system, which streamlines the communications and response process. This tool was the one constant on many best practices' lists.
The only thing missing from my week in Baton Rouge was the presence of smaller colleges and universities. While the best practices are scalable to meet the needs of any size university, those establishing the best practices consisted mainly of Division I schools, with the Big 10 and SEC, in particular, best represented. This is a summit that all colleges and universities should be attending, including Division II, Division III and even those on the NAIA and junior college levels. As I said in my speech to those in attendance, only together can we make a real difference.