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by Senior Editor

Security at the Little League World Series

Aug 30, 20107 mins
Access ControlCritical InfrastructurePhysical Security

Organizers worked together to ensure fans didn't cry foul at security during this year's Little League World Series. What does it take to secure the world's largest youth sporting event?

The 2010 Little League World Series wrapped up yesterday in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania. The series, which is the world’s largest youth sporting event, took place over nine days and saw 30 games played between the best teams in Little League baseball. On its final day, more than 29,000 fans turned out to watch a Japanese team defeat a team from Waipahu, Hawaii. It is the first time a Japanese team has taken the title in the event’s history.

While the Little League World Series may conjure up images of family fun and young athletes at the top of their game, putting all the pieces together is certainly no small feat, particularly when it comes to security. CSO asked James Ferguson, Director of Security, Assistant Director of Risk Management, Little League International, about what it takes to keep the event secure and running smoothly.

What are the unique security challenges of an event like the Little League World Series when compared to other sporting events?

The primary challenge in securing an international event like the Little League World Series is the fact that many of the security needs — from a technology perspective — are somewhat temporary for the duration of the 10-day Series. Little League Baseball and Softball International employs approximately 100 full-time personnel on the Little League complex, year-round. The permanent security system consists of a Lenel access control and solution utilizing HID iCLASS readers for card-access for the complex buildings, and Axis cameras for full-time video surveillance of the complex.

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During the two week World Series, however, the system nearly triples in size as Lenel and Axis donate mobile access control points and additional cameras to enhance and supplement the permanent system. All of this supplemental equipment is set up by Lenel and Axis volunteers in a single weekend and taken down again at the end of the Series. This way, Little League benefits from both the additional equipment that helps to meet the augmented need for security during the event, but also the fact that, since the equipment is donated annually, we always have access to the latest and greatest, cutting-edge equipment each year.

The network-based nature of both the Lenel software and the Axis IP cameras allows for these additions to the system to be configured in such a short period of time. Using Little League’s existing network infrastructure, we are able to add access control points, IP cameras, and security monitoring stations quickly and easily, anywhere on the secure network. The flexible nature of the security components also helps with inter-agency cooperation as security information and video surveillance can be shared across the multiple agencies, local, state, and federal law enforcement, as well as contract Little League security officers, that help to protect the event.

How can you balance keeping the environment family friendly and easy going with also having tight security?

The World Series is, and always will be, a family friendly event (See also: Happy vacation! Security at tourist spots). Obviously, we need a visible security presence to provide peace-of-mind to visitors and spectators as well as to act as a deterrent to would-be troublemakers. Uniformed police officers, contract Little League security officers, and other law enforcement officials patrol the complex and man the public entry points where all spectators are required to undergo a security check, including metal detectors, upon entering the complex.

However, we do our best to make sure that our electronic security is as transparent as possible. If we’re doing our job correctly, nobody should even know that it’s there. Access control and video surveillance allow us to keep an eye, quite literally, on the activities on the complex. By utilizing the video technology, provided by Axis Communications — including HD cameras, megapixel cameras, and even thermal imaging cameras, and combining those with Lenel IntelligentVideo analytics, we are able to monitor the complex in an unobtrusive yet highly secure manner. Rather than using video reactively, as many organizations might, we try to use technology to make our video surveillance system as proactive as possible. Using Lenel’s VMS software in conjunction with Axis cameras, we are able to launch relevant video on monitoring screens automatically based on access control and analytic events. In this way, our security personnel are always aware of incidents involving invalid access levels, objects left behind, fence-line/perimeter breeches, etc.

Since the Little League complex sits borders a residential area, nighttime visibility of surveillance cameras poses another challenge. Rather than using floodlights or other visible light sources which might be a nuisance to nearby residents, we utilize IR illuminators,which use light outside the visible spectrum and thermal imaging to “see in the dark” with our cameras. In this way, we are able to maintain 24-hour video surveillance without the need for additional light sources wasting energy and annoying the neighbors.

Did you make any changes to your security plans or products this year?

Through the generous donations of our partners who contribute both personnel and products to enhance the security at the event, we are able to add new, cutting-edge technology every year. This year we converted all of our proximity card-access technology to securely encrypted iCLASS smart card technology from HID and issued HID iCLASS smart cards to more than 2,500 volunteers, employees, players/coaches/managers, and other World Series personnel. We also implemented a number of Lenel’s new, wireless ILS (Integrated Locking System) locks which allow us to add additional door/reader hardware for access control via a self-contained, wireless, battery-powered lock that can be installed in under an hour from start-to-finish. On the video side, we implemented new Axis HD, megapixel, and thermal IP cameras which provide us with the flexibility to monitor more of the complex than ever before, and even give us the ability to see in low-light and pitch-black conditions thanks to IR illuminators and thermal technology. At each of our entry points, we implemented Stentofon IP intercom call-stations to provide our security officers posted at remote locations with the ability to quickly and easily communicate with the security operations center.

Any lessons learned from years past that have impacted your current plans?

Each year, after the Series, we meet with all of our security partners to discuss what went well, what needs to be adjusted, and — most importantly v what we can implement in the future to enhance the safety, security, and fun of our visitors, players, and volunteers. One of the benefits of this event is that we have almost 50 weeks to prepare for next year’s World Series — giving us ample time to carefully plan, evaluate new technologies, and implement enhancements to the existing system.

Prior to 1998, players and personnel were identified by their hats. This posed obvious challenges both operationally and from a security perspective as hats were commonly lost, traded, or given away, resulting in a complicated security effort attempting to figure out who was who, and where someone should be allowed to go on the complex. When Lenel came onboard in 1998, we issued photo ID credentials to players and security personnel —approximately 300 badges that year— which greatly simplified the process of identifying individuals and keeping track of the players. Since then, the operation has expanded every year to where we are today with full-blown building access control, mobile access points, wireless locks, digital video surveillance, IntelligentVideo analytics, IP-based intercom systems, and iCLASS smart cards issued to every participant and employee on the complex allowing us to monitor their location and access at all times.