Director Roberts Tells Congress How CCICADA’s Work Is Making Stadiums Safer for Crowds but Warns of Potential Future Threats


US Representative Susan Brooks

In testimony before a House subcommittee, CCICADA Director Fred S. Roberts explained how his organization is enhancing stadium security through big-data analysis and the publication of a widely used best-practices manual. He also warned of potential future threats to stadium crowds, such as out-of-control cars hijacked remotely by computer hackers.

Roberts highlighted CCICADA’s work with the US DHS Office of SAFETY Act Implementation in the development of the manual SAFETY Act: Best Practices in Stadium Security Resource Guide. He also discussed an ongoing project to identify quantifiable metrics and measures of evaluation to further protect sports fans from natural and manmade disasters or attacks. (Read Robert’s written testimony.)

The occasion was the June 23, 2014, US House of Representatives hearing on “Mass Gathering Security: A Look at the Coordinated Approach to Super Bowl XLVIII in Newark, New Jersey and Other Large Scale Events.” The hearing was held at the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark by the House Committee on Homeland Security’s Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response and Communication.


US Representative Donald Payne, NJ, subcommittee ranking member

The subcommittee is chaired by the Honorable Susan Brooks, Indiana, with the Honorable Donald Payne, New Jersey, as the ranking member. Experts from government, industry and academia provided testimony on stadium security.

Others who testified at the hearing included the US Department of Homeland Security Super Bowl federal coordinating officer; the deputy superintendent of the NJ State Police; the chief of police of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey; the Newark, NJ Fire Chief; and representatives of the NFL and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

In its report on the hearing, the Associated Press focused exclusively on the pieces of Robert’s testimony that subcommittee members found especially interesting.

“So the most interesting part of Monday’s congressional hearing in Newark to review lessons learned from the event (Super Bowl XLVIII) was a discussion of what future terror threats could look like,” the Associated Press reported.

“Fred Roberts directs a program at Rutgers University that studies stadium security. He told New Jersey Rep. Donald Payne and others that future terror threats could come in forms such as cyber-attacks or someone hacking into a car’s computer system to control its braking and acceleration outside a stadium.

“He also said stadiums need to be more vigilant in doing background checks on employees even after they’re hired, and making sure emergency plans aren’t leaked by former employees.”

Roberts also described prior and current research in the review and study of patron screening methods and other security observations that have informed many computer-simulation projects which make it possible to test various scenarios and screening options through a “what if” options analysis.

For example, after the 2013 Boston Marathon terrorist attack targeting large standing crowds, CCICADA’s work was used to calculate the size of crowds awaiting stadium entry based on various screening methods (metal detection wanding, bag checks, pat-downs and walk-through metal detection technology) and lane configurations. The simulation results have influenced policy at both the venue and league levels.

Among those testifying, a witness to an actual evacuation using CCICADA’s stadium evacuation tools said they had been extremely valuable in a real emergency and in training staff to handle the evacuations.

Of special interest to Congressman Payne, Congresswoman Brooks, and a special visitor to the hearing, Congressman Frank Pascrell of New Jersey, were examples of potential future threats described by Roberts. These included the possibility of hacking into a car and letting it run wild in the parking lot of a stadium; the need to recheck the background of employees periodically, perhaps through randomization methods; and the possibility that emergency plans might not be returned after an employee departs.

Another example given by Roberts—the possibility of sharing equipment such as magnetometers between venues—caught the attention of venue operators among the witnesses.

CCICADA was mentioned as a possible source of cyber security training and its Best Practices Manual was seen as a potentially extremely useful resource for stadiums of all kinds. It was clear after the session that the Subcommittee members view CCICADA as a potential resource in this critical area of large-venue security.


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