Over the weekend I took my wife to a concert at a major NFL Stadium. As a security professional, we tend to assess security everywhere we go, especially major events. When I attend concerts, or provide venue assessments, I look for positives & negatives. From quality of personnel, ways to exploit vulnerabilities in coverage, overall experience, and operational efficiencies. We attempt to exploit measures not to cause harm to others, but to learn the tactics that may be used against us or our clients. The better we understand these tactics, we can train staffers to look for these potential dangers. This particular event had a large presence of personnel and screening at the access points. Standup metal detectors, hand wands, police/K9 presence, and 1-2 dozen uniformed security personnel. In the past I’ve worked a few protection assignments involving stadiums/arenas. Over the years, these environments have improved exponentially in regards to safety & security. But, like all major events, there will be areas that are exploitable.
For this specific event, I decided I would attempt to test the training of the staff. As we approached the gate, I removed my small pocket knife, and concealed it in my waistband, behind my belt buckle. As we entered the screening zone, I emptied my pockets into the clear plastic bins. I proceeded to make small talk with the security staffer. I did so to not alarm the staffer of any suspicious activity. I left my medical kits on my person, concealed under my coat. As I walked through the standup metal detectors, the machine did its job and alerted the personnel. Instead of waiting for them to wand me, I voluntarily lifted my coat and exposed my belt and medical kits to them. Explaining the alert was for my belt and possibly my med kits. This was a planned tactic to divert their attention from anything else. The staffer wanded my med kits. I opened the kits to show my tourniquet, Quikclot, etc. The staffers were so intrigued by my gear, they didn’t wand any other parts of my body. I jokingly said to my wife, “this happens every time I go through TSA, I’m used to it.” The staffer’s laughed and thanked me for my cooperation. Little did they know they were being tricked, and the art of verbal judo/misdirection worked.
We went to our seats, enjoyed the concert, and had a great time. Luckily, I wasn’t a potential threat. Had I been someone seeking to cause harm, I could’ve easily made it into this stadium with more than a pocket knife. Let this be a reminder that a venue may appear safe and secure. If someone wants to cause serious bodily injury or death to others, they will find a way to do so. With major events like these, there will always be areas that are exploitable.
On a positive note, the stage/backstage security presence was exceptional. The individuals securing these areas were attentive, proactive, and not "caught up in the moment". Especially at the end of the show when the performer exited the stage and proceeded to the vehicle for departure. Eyes were forward, scanning the crowd, not focused on the entertainer. Barricades moved appropriately to prevent fans from potentially reaching the artist. Clear paths were illuminated to prevent any trip hazards. As an Executive Protection agent, this made me smile.
Remember to expect the unexpected. Always be prepared.