#ISCWest2019: The Future of Stadium Security

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Kicking off the second day of the ISC West 2019 conference in Las Vegas, keynote speaker Russ Butler, VP of security for the San Francisco 49ers and Levi’s Stadium, talked about the evolution of the ever-changing stadium security landscape in his talk, “Stadium Security: As It Was, Where It Is and Where It Is Going.”

Butler has been planning and executing notable events with the NFL for six years, including Super Bowl 50, but his career began with London's Metropolitan Police in the 1980s.

To give context to his role, Butler took a stroll down memory lane, citing three significant events at stadiums in Europe where accidents resulted in dozens of fatalities. During that same time, though, stadiums in the US remained a much more settled environment, Butler said.

“Clearly the NFL is the most valuable sports league in the US, but it is also a microcosm of American culture, which makes it vulnerable to the attention of nefarious actors,”

Stadium security changed in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, notably the defining moment when everything changed. “The NFL was very quick to respond, to implement innovations and begin to consolidate and drive security change,” Butler said.

The federal government also reacted, instructing what qualified as anti-terrorism technology, according to Butler, in Best Practices Stadium Security (BPSS). The BPSS was then followed by the Department of Homeland Security’s Safety Act of 2002.

Levi's Stadium has a safety act designation, which was awarded in June 2016, though it was backdated to 2014. “It’s a very broad program but an indication of where security is going,” Butler said. “We will continue to innovate and collaborate with government and seek various security solutions to provide an environment in which the highest levels of safety can be delivered.”

Though stadiums alone can’t ensure that high level of safety, particularly when it comes to drones, because legislation poses challenges. “The legislative situation we have makes it incredibly challenging from a mitigation standpoint to do anything other than track and monitor,” Butler said. “It’s unfortunate that right now the legislative issues that exist mean that we simply don’t have active mitigation measures.”

Without the ability to differentiate between friend or foe, stadiums can do little to strengthen defenses against malicious actors in the sky. While most drones are hobby fliers, the ability to respond to drone threats is something the industry needs to address.

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