How can communications technology improve safety at sporting events?

The increasing regularity of critical incidents worldwide means that the organisers of the main sporting events need to readdress and improve their safety and security procedures. While the Rio 2016 Olympics and Paralympics were, on the whole, a celebration of sporting excellence and culture, large scale riots, the targeting of athletes and spectators by criminal gangs and widespread fears about the impact of the Zika virus, meant security fears overshadowed the event.

[easy-tweet tweet=”The Olympic Games in Rio was marred by an influx in street crime” hashtags=”cloud, tech, sport, security”]

Despite the fact the Rio government deployed an 85,000 strong security force (that included 23,000 soldiers) to patrol and monitor the games, the event was marred by an influx in street crime. One of the most high-profile incidents saw the Chief of Security, Felipe Seixas, the victim of an attempted robbery at knifepoint outside of the Maracanã Stadium following the opening ceremony.

For the organisers of high-footfall events—in this case, Brazil’s National Olympic Committee (NOC)—implementing effective security measures and practices can be a serious challenge. To ensure that it is best placed to manage a crisis, organisers need to have the tools to be able to communicate quickly and reliably with scores of people, including stewards, security officials, visitors and competitors.

When incidents like the rioting close to the Rio Olympic Park take place, how can organisers make people aware of a fast-changing situation and what actions they should take to keep themselves safe? One solution is to implement the use of an independent, cloud-based critical communications platform to manage emergency responses and to prioritise the safety and security of everyone involved.

Used by emergency services in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon Bombings in 2013, the Everbridge cloud communications platform was recently implemented to manage all communications in the lead up to, during, and after one of the biggest sporting events in the world—Super Bowl 50 in San Francisco. With more than 1.1 million people in attendance during Super Bowl week, emergency services, local authorities and organising bodies ensured visitors were kept up-to-date with all of the latest information as the week unfolded. These notifications included the most recent travel information such as rail or road closures, live traffic and parking updates, weather news, and any emergency alerts that required immediate action.

Had the Brazilian authorities had a critical communications platform at its disposal when the riots broke out, they could have aggregated geolocation data from the platform to send out an emergency notification to everyone in the area warning of the danger and providing actions to guide them to safety. At the same time, the platform could have notified on-duty security staff of the incident and ensured that securing the area and minimising any immediate danger became the top priority.

[easy-tweet tweet=”With a critical communications platform, you can collect aggregated geolocation data” hashtags=”tech, data, geolocation, services”]

This technology enables organisers to send out emergency notifications via more than 100 different communication channels and devices including SMS, email, VoIP calls, voice-to-text, social media alerts and app notifications. The platform continues to send out signals until an acknowledgement is received. Responses to these notifications would have provided emergency services and security officials with clear visibility of an incident, streamlining the process of understanding which people were at risk and what resources were available to manage the crisis.

Implementing a cloud-based communications platform has many advantages for organisations. By having a system that operates entirely independent of an internal communications network, groups are ensuring that the respective lines of communication between safety officers and spectators remain open—even in the event of a cyber-attack or IT outage that may compromise an internal network or a rush of calls which may overload a telecommunications mast. Organisations can also use the technology to capitalise on data already being gathered—via Wi-Fi networks or stadium access cards—to gain an even greater understanding of where staff and spectators are located at all times.

Furthermore, by using cloud technology to automate the time-intensive emergency cascade process, resources can be deployed more effectively and efficiently than before, ensuring that the safety of everyone involved is better protected.

As attentions turn to the next major sporting events—such as Tokyo 2020 and the FIFA World Cups in Russia and Qatar— organisers will look to implement new strategies to improve the safety and security of everyone attending. Harnessing the power of the latest cloud-based technology to help ensure that the safety issues of Rio 2016 are a thing of the past will surely be high on the agenda.

Nick Hawkins joined Everbridge as Managing Director EMEA in April 2015. Nick is an experienced business leader and has managed sales and service teams within the Services, IT and Communications industries for more than 25 years.  Nick has extensive experience in the security industry and spent more than 10 years in the Metropolitan Police.

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