John Petrone, who has helped six NFL teams secure some level of Safety Act coverage from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, is overseeing the massive emergency preparedness plans for Churchill Downs and Pocono Raceway and has 20 other sports clients at different stages of similar evaluations.
But like everyone else, he was stunned as he watched ballparks and arenas go from being filled with fans, to hosting games without fans, to possibly eliminating media and nonessential staff, to having no games at all.
“Over a matter of just a few days, the situation went through every hypothetical phase that a venue operator evaluates when it is going through its table-top emergency-planning exercises,” said Petrone, president of Petrone Risk. “The most important thing now for every venue stakeholder is documentation. The only way to be prepared for future disruptions is to document every step, including steps that you decided not to take.”
The Utica, N.Y.-based risk management practice puts together a venue-specific “epidemic/pandemic emergency preparedness plan” for each client. Future protocols will not require the dramatic infrastructure changes that venue designers and operators saw after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, but he said that policies will change for everyone associated with the building.
“Of course, everyone is going to look at how they are cleaning their buildings. But maybe there are concessions issues that maybe you didn’t 100% worry about before. What about delivery people? Security practices will change.”
A spokesperson for biometrics company Clear, whose fingerprint scanning technology is used at 20 U.S. sports venues, including the about-to-open Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, said that game-day staff had already begun encouraging fans “to use hand sanitizer before using their fingertips for verification, increased the overall disinfection frequency of our physical technology and wiped down the touchpad after each use.”
Petrone added that communicating any changes in safety procedures to staff, fans and partners is also critical for a smooth transition of the new policies.