After Paris Terror Attacks, Sports Venue Security Directors Turn to CCICADA for Answers

CCICADA, a national expert in stadium security, is exploring the use of randomization in patron-screening protocols to keep adversaries at bay.

The world prayed for Paris following the November 13, 2015 terror attacks that killed 130 people and injured hundreds more. Photo credit: Tobias Theiler (Flickr, Creative Commons) The world prayed for Paris following the November 13, 2015 terror attacks that killed 130 people and injured hundreds more. Photo credit: Tobias Theiler (Flickr, Creative Commons)

In the wake of the Paris terror attacks at the Bataclan Concert Hall and the Stade de France last November, venue security directors are more anxious than ever about how to keep their patrons safe in the face of increasingly savvy adversaries.

Some have turned to CCICADA, the homeland-security-research group based at Rutgers University, for guidance in how to make stadiums and other entertainment venues more secure from terrorist attacks.

One of the ideas coming to the forefront is using randomization to make screening more effective and more efficient. The center has launched a research effort to explore the effective use of coordinated randomization in screening procedures at sports stadiums and other large gathering places such as theaters and convention halls. The so-called Coordinated Randomization Protocol (CRP) uses random changes in detector setup to make security checks more effective and less predictable.

“Unvarying protocols create vulnerabilities as an intelligent adversary can study them. Randomization counters that threat,” explained CCICADA Director Fred Roberts, who was contacted by a number of national news organizations after the Paris attacks for his views on venue security.

Stadium-Security Expertise

A makeshift memorial to victims was made at Place de la République in Paris following the November 13, 2015 terror attacks. Photo credit: Flickr, Creative Commons.

A makeshift memorial to victims was made at Place de la République in Paris following the November 13, 2015 terror attacks. Photo credit: Flickr, Creative Commons.

CCICADA is becoming a noted national expert on venue security, primarily as a result of its extensive research into this aspect of homeland security and its development of best practices for patron-screening and evacuation tools now in use by professional sports stadiums across the country.

CCICADA (The Command, Control and Interoperability Center for Advanced Data Analysis) has conducted stadium security research since 2010 with venues from all major professional sports leagues, some minor leagues, and NCAA (college sports) stadiums and arenas.

It also produced the “Best Practices in Anti-Terrorism for Sporting and Entertainment Venues,” which is posted on a Department of Homeland Security website to guide venue operators seeking federal SAFETY Act certification.

Venue Security History

With growing concerns about terrorist attacks on large venues, the National Football League mandated in 2011 that all its stadiums use metal-detecting wands. But when the lines got too long, the practice of wanding was stopped and patrons were simply patted down.

A friendly soccer match at the Stade de France (this is an earlier photo of the stadium) between France and Germany was one of several targets during the November 13, 2015 Paris terror attacks. Photo credit: Sean MacEntee (Flickr, Creative Commons)

A friendly soccer match at the Stade de France (this is an earlier photo of the stadium) between France and Germany was one of several targets during the November 13, 2015 Paris terror attacks. Photo credit: Sean MacEntee (Flickr, Creative Commons)

“In contrast to airports or prisons, there is a critical tradeoff at entertainment facilities between inspecting all patrons and getting them into those venues quickly,” explained CCICADA Research Director Dr. Paul Kantor.

He added: “There is a fundamental relationship between level of protection and screening speed or flow rate, and this relationship serves as a bridge between the behavior of patrons, and the effective coordination of randomization patterns.”

Patron behavior, especially in response to new screening protocols, is not easily predicted. This leads to a complex behavioral aspect to be studied: How do patrons choose among screening or inspection lanes under varying screening protocols?

Shortly after the NFL mandate in 2011, the CCICADA team worked with partners at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey (New York Giants and New York Jets) gathering data on flow and detection rates for hand-held wanding. When hand-held wanding caused lengthy delays, the NFL began using walkthrough metal detectors (WTMDs), and Major League Baseball (MLB) and other leagues have followed.

CCICADA has worked with MetLife Stadium, Progressive Field (MLB Cleveland Indians), the Barclays Center (NBA Brooklyn Nets) and other venues to model the use of WTMDs (e.g., how many are needed to achieve a certain flow), and to observe how the WTMDs function in practice in real situations.

Randomization Research Project

After the events in Paris, CCICADA research turned to examining the effect on venue security and throughput of four interacting factors in patron screenings:

  1. The detection and flow rate, controlled by adjusting WTMD security settings and using slower screening protocols such as bag inspections and pat-downs.
  2. Management tools for moderating patron behavior—such as signage, announcements, operator/screener behavior, and social media messaging—to adjust what the fans are told or shown or the way this information is transmitted.
  3. Factors beyond the control of management: weather, patron demographics, quality of the opponents.
  4. The threat objects to be detected.

Based on these four factors, the study will look at the detection probability, the inspection time/flow rate (throughput), and patron choice of queue (screening line) to join, known as Queue Choice Behavior or QCB.

“The key concept developed by CCICADA through this research is the Coordinated Randomization Protocol (CRP),” Kantor said.

A single randomization protocol just varies the sensitivity of the detector on a single WTMD. But to minimize total crowd buildup and delay, for example, the lengths of several adjacent queues should be monitored, and the settings adjusted, so that the longest queue has a faster throughput.

CCICADA is studying:

  1. the effect of CRP on detection probability and flow rates (throughput);
  2. the effect of CRP on real patrons’ QCB in deciding which inspection line to join;
  3. the effects of management moderating variables on QCB, and on the detection effectiveness and throughput of CRP; and
  4. the effect of non-management factors on QCB and effectiveness of CRP.

The Center has begun work with its sports venue partners on experiments and observations of actual patron behavior in response to specific randomization protocols.

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