FIRST AND GOAL
Apr 1, 2005 12:00 PM
BY RANDY SOUTHERLAND
On any given Sunday, the roar of nearly 69,000 voices cheering as one rises up from the cavernous expanses of Titans Coliseum, home of the NFL's Tennessee Titans.
In this teeming, open-air stadium on the banks of the Cumberland River near downtown Nashville, most eyes are on the game. But the Coliseum's Surveillance Security Team is watching to make sure that players, employees and fans are safe and protected.
From locations throughout the many ramps and passageways, from between sections, and even high atop the scoreboard, sophisticated cameras scan the crowds for trouble. In a central control room, security personnel keep their keen eyes on monitors that provide constant views of interior and exterior locations throughout the Coliseum. They are ready to respond instantly to alarms ranging from a door propped open to a vendor in trouble.
A new era for stadium security
At the Coliseum, access control and security monitoring are taken as seriously as football. While this city famous for its country music takes great pride in the success of its new team ¡ª the Titans have won an AFC Championship and appeared in their first Super Bowl since moving to Nashville ¡ª few fans realize that the home field has another advantage. It's a showcase of just how safe an NFL facility can be.
Most football stadiums have always taken security seriously, but the level of concern and the potential threats heightened in the days and months following the Sept. 11 attacks. Suddenly, the list of potential threats extends far beyond boisterous and rowdy fans to the possibility of terrorism.
Shortly after the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center, the NFL established a security task force composed of team security advisors and stadium personnel. The league also hired an outside security firm, Guardsmark, to evaluate each stadium's security situation before the opening of the 2002 season. Each team was assessed individually regarding how they might be more secure.
"They came back and said by a particular date all stadiums would have a minimum number of cameras and other access control and security devices," says Randy Dichtel, president of RD&A Inc, a Nashville-based security integrator. "Titans Coliseum was one of the first (facilities) to undergo the upgrades, and they became a showcase for the rest of the league." Dichtel's company was selected to install an integrated system for monitoring security, fire and access control at the Titans Coliseum.
"They wanted to show what they could do in securing a facility post-9/11 to better manage crowd control and look at things like air intake and egresses in the stadium during peak game times," Dichtel says. "Things are a lot different (since Sept. 11). We never would have dreamed of protecting air intakes prior to terrorism coming to America. Now you wouldn't dream of not protecting air intakes where someone could introduce a biological or chemical agent to a large facility and harm large numbers of people."
Keeping an eye open
The central focus of the Coliseum's new security array was to be a vastly increased number of cameras spread throughout the facility. Each camera would feed back into a central monitoring facility through an access control system that also monitored door alarms.
Working from AutoCAD drawings, RD&A personnel began meeting with Coliseum officials, including security directors, the facility owners, and representatives from the NFL. The first task was to plan where cameras would be positioned, what areas should be covered and exactly what the priorities should be for the system.
"It was a bit of a challenge to get everybody to agree on everything," Dichtel says. "When you say you're going to integrate these systems, exactly what points should be integrated and what cameras should be called up? If there was an alarm from the ticket office or the cash counting area, which camera are you going to call up to cover a particular exit? Are you going to take a particular parking lot camera off tour to cover an exit?"
Each situation had to be carefully thought out, and then the system had to be programmed to bring up cameras as required by alarms or personnel.
Work moved quickly, with the facility facing a deadline of getting the security in place in time for the Titans' 2003 playoff game ¡ª in just 77 days.
"They didn't know at the time they would be going to the playoffs," Dichtel says. "They just had a short fuse from the NFL to comply as all the stadiums did. It just so happened that the time frame for our project ended during the playoffs. So they had to jumpstart the system."
The project was made easier by the Coliseum's commitment to running fiber optics throughout the facility. Wire ran through conduits from the nearest pan/tilt/zoom camera to the nearest Intermediate Distribution Frame (IDF) closet and then shot all the way down to the basement far below.
One of the primary focuses of the new security system was crowd control. Security needed to see what was going on in various public areas, and also to be able to track suspicious individuals as needed by moving from one camera zone to another.
The company installed 128 units throughout the facility, including Spectra III and Esprit Positioning Systems along with more than 80 high-resolution 3701H-2 fixed color cameras from Pelco. The company also supplied the DX7000 16-channel recorders and CM9740 matrix.
"We now have the capability to access and retrieve video quickly for police reports and accident/injury claims," says Justin Brant, audio/visual systems engineer for the Tennessee Titans. "In fact, these videos have been used as evidence in numerous cases."
Multi-media access control, alarm monitoring, asset tracking and video management are handled by a GE Security Diamond II program (formerly InfoGraphics). The system is also connected to door alarms that automatically call up nearby cameras if they are forced or left open.
In the central control room, security officials can monitor activities using 39 17-inch color monitors installed in a console provided by Winsted Corp.
An added security feature is the use of a Zenitel Emergency/Security Station that includes two-way urgent voice communications and Stenophone matrix. "In areas where there is cash counting, we have microphones that would automatically hear what is going on in the event of an emergency such as a holdup," Dichtel says. "In addition, they can automatically hear what is going on, see what is going one and get an alarm on site."
Security officials also have available AutoCAD maps that can be pulled up through the access control system to show where doors have been forced or left propped open.
Meeting the deadline of having the system up and running by playoff time called not only for fast work, but also for precise attention to detail. The conditions under which the equipment functions on a typical weekday are different than those faced on Sunday when the Coliseum is filled to capacity.
"We had some vibration issues when you have 70,000 people coming down the ramps after a win ¡ª many are still whooping and jumping up and down. That caused some of the pan/tilt/zoom (PTZ) cameras to bounce as well," Dichtel explains. "To remedy that problem, we had to install some Pelco vibration dampening devices."
To ensure there were no hitches on the big game day, RD&A provided on-site technicians to assist security personnel in operating the equipment. As the fans cheered their team, security was able to ensure that all the action took place on the field.
"There were no hitches and no glitches," said Dichtel.
The system has since proved to be extremely valuable. In one instance, a TV crew was expecting the delivery of two pallets of equipment. When technical crews checked, they could find only one. After some frantic calls, the delivery company insisted they had delivered both and had a signature to prove it.
"Well that's true," Dichtel recalls. "Somebody signed the paperwork saying two pallets, but indeed only one pallet arrived. They were able to go back and pull that video to show that the carrier only delivered and unloaded one. Suddenly, the (delivery) company was able to locate it."
The resolution of that particular incident made the TV crew happy. It also demonstrated to everyone that security at the Coliseum was working the way it was meant to.