Former FBI agents James McGee and Ray Mey conduct disaster training workshops around the world and both preach the same message for those who attend – “never stop preparing.”
McGee and Mey drove that point home repeatedly while serving as facilitators in a table top exercise held on Feb. 2 at the National Center for Spectator Sports Safety (NCS4) and Security at The University of Southern Mississippi. The daylong workshop brought together law enforcement, emergency and safety officials from the federal, state and local levels to study the impact of a possible terrorist attack during a Southern Miss football game.
The exercise was part of a Department of Homeland Security research project to enhance the effectiveness of local and regional communities in planning and training for improvised explosive device threats and attacks on sport venues.
“The tendency is to get lulled into a false sense of security believing that this won’t happen here,” said McGee, who spent 21 years with the FBI. “But terrorism can strike anywhere, anytime and while we are probably helpless to prevent an attack, we can be as prepared as possible to deal with the consequences.”
The NCS4 table top exercise involved two different disaster scenarios. The first dealt with a potential suicide bomber detonating a van filled with explosives outside M.M. Robert Stadium. The second scenario outlined the ramifications of a suicide bombing from a terrorist wearing a backpack inside the stadium.
Southern Miss already has a “no backpack” policy in place for home football games, but the exercise called for a scenario in which a suicide bomber breaks through security personnel and enters the stadium.
Workshop participants were assisted in their discussion and evaluation of the exercises by a suite of technological tools. Among those were Web-based intelligence reports on suspected terrorists; high-definition surveillance cameras positioned around Roberts Stadium and SportEvac software used at NCS4 to simulate crowd control and evacuation procedures in case of an emergency.
One prevailing question that always arises from an exercise such as this would be: Are we taking the threat of terrorist attacks seriously enough nationwide?
“I believe we are,” said Don McCrory, Task Force III coordinator in the Mississippi Office of Homeland Security. “Having this many safety experts and officials assembled for exercises like this is an example of how serious we are about protecting our citizens. Even one casualty from a terrorist attack is one too many.
“I really believe the University of Southern Mississippi is especially fortunate to have a national center such as this working every day to train and prepare and possibly prevent attacks of this nature.”
Established in 2006, the National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security was created to provide an interdisciplinary academic environment to further increase sport security awareness, improve sport security policies and procedures and enhance emergency response through evacuation, recovery operations and crowd management training.
For more information about NCS4 call 601.266.6183 or visit www.NCS4.com