Assessing and managing risk for an event like the Super Bowl is more than a matter of just looking around the venue for possible slip and fall hazards and hiring a few security guards to ensure no one enters the stadium with a gun in their purse.
It takes a team effort to make sure the game goes off without a hitch and the quarterback calling the plays is the U.S. government — notably the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security.
After all, “the Super Bowl is designated a national special security event by the federal government,” said Robert Dodge, vice president of Corporate Risk Services for the global security firm G4S. “So basically, you get an enormous amount of security and collaboration by all law enforcement agencies … so it becomes, in essence, a very, very hard target.”
Super Bowl LII itself kicks off in U.S. Bank Stadium in in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on Sunday, Feb. 4. But related festivities and events begin 10 days prior to kickoff. Nothing has been left to chance in preparing for this annual celebration of all things football, according to an informational story on Super Bowl security published by the FBI. The Minneapolis Police Department is heading up the security forces, with support being provided by other local, state and federal law enforcement, as well as private security organizations, the FBI said. Planning for the event has been going on for two years.
The game venue, U.S. Bank Stadium, is fully enclosed, owned and operated by the Minnesota Sports Facilities Stadium, and home to the Minnesota Vikings. Located in the heart of Minneapolis, the 66,200-seat stadium was built with public/private funding at a cost of $1.129 billion. The Vikings, along with other private contributions, paid for 54 percent of the construction cost, or $608 million, and public funding picked up the rest of the tab, according to information posted on the stadium’s website.
The Super Bowl Host Committee has said that 1 million people are expected to visit Minneapolis during the 10 days of bowl festivities, including many from out of state and some from other countries.
There are myriad potential risks associated with a large, global event such as the Super Bowl, according to Dodge. His company, G4S, is providing security 24/7 for the stadium, including on game day, and is providing security services to public and private organizations involved in events surrounding the Super Bowl.
G4S, Dodge said, is the largest security provider in the world, with more than 600,000 employees providing security services in 100 countries. Beyond security personnel, the company provides electronic security, consulting and high end protective services, among other things. Some of its clients include NFL teams and stadiums, as well as other sports teams and venues.
Typically, federal and local government entities won’t advertise specific security risks they may be looking at, but certainly terrorism and threats from foreign terrorist organizations will top the list of concerns for law enforcement and the NFL, he said.
Terrorists have “made no secret about their intent to hit large events and cause damage,” Dodge said. There will be a lot of intelligence focused on monitoring and assessing the likelihood of a terrorist attack.
Another concern might be around a possible lone-wolf attacker, who “could be a home-grown individual that doesn’t have any formal affiliation to any one terrorist organization. So, they’re much harder to detect,” Dodge said.
The FBI will be “taking the lead in any kind of terrorist, cyber, or major crime incident, and providing intelligence, from both a national and international perspective, about bad actors who might seek to disrupt Super Bowl activities,” the agency said in its informational release.
Threats for such a large event could include anything from vehicle ramming — a terrorist activity that has increased dramatically over the past year — to weaponized drones or cyber-attacks on critical infrastructure, such as telecommunications systems or the power grid, Dodge said. “There will be measures to try and mitigate” all these things.
Another factor is the weather in Minneapolis — it will be cold! “The game will be inside but there are weather concerns … about security and how are they going to get people inside rapidly. … Because they’re going through multiple security checks,” he said.
Event planners have taken the weather into account, according to the FBI. Warming huts are located around the stadium and fans will be pre-screened at indoor facilities such as the Mall of America to minimize outside wait times.
The FBI acknowledged, however, that because of the location of the stadium in the heart of the city, establishing a perimeter and securing the venue is a challenge.
Still, Dodge said, “this is a very hardened target with a lot of attention being brought to it. Any credible threats, any talk on social media … is going to get a full and rapid response. There will be a lot of different security being thrown at these potential threats.”