Feature Article - January 2016
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Safe & Secure

New Trends in Sports Facility Security & Safety

By Kelli Ra Anderson


Safer by Design

Whether you are upgrading an existing facility or creating a new one, it is important to think about key areas (such as locker rooms and entryways), and design them with smarter layouts and features that enhance safety and security.

At the Sport and Leisure Complex in Coquitlam Poirer, Vancouver, Canada, lockers and benches were placed in a common area with direct line-of-sight from the pool deck. Stall doors (that didn't go all the way to the floor) and changing areas were located around the exterior of the lockers and benches.

"The thinking was that this would keep these spaces transparent and cut down on theft," said Scott W. Hester, PE with Counsilman-Hunsaker. "Since the lockers were all exposed to the natatorium as well as the dry side corridor, theft in lockers has been dramatically reduced."

Designing a primary entrance controlled by a check-in entry point that has visual access to much of the facility is a design feature recommended by a recent whole building design guide from the Institute of Building Sciences (IBS) as a safeguard against unauthorized access.

Other often-suggested deterrents to unauthorized entry and theft are more video cameras, ID-checking software, better lighting at night, closer ties with law enforcement and more part-time staff in high-risk areas.

According to the findings of IBS, one of the areas most at risk is the locker room because of insufficient supervision. A treasure trove of personal belongings in a space without video cameras, the locker room is an ideal location for thieves to access patrons' credit cards, cash, electronics, jewelry and other stored possessions.

While it is helpful to post signs encouraging patrons to be careful with their belongings (by either leaving them at home or carrying them with them while at facility), the biggest deterrent is to know who is actually present.

To that end, some facilities require members to scan membership cards to enter and have their guests leave a photo ID or take their picture. Others require locker room attendants to exchange the patron's card for a key to a specific locker. This helps to eliminate the usual wandering that follows as they search for an available locker. Having another attendant just to patrol the area is also effective.

Technology

Technology also plays a significant role in reducing theft, unauthorized access and other unwanted behaviors. Check-in technology, for example, now runs the gamut of membership cards to cardless check-ins. 24 Hour Fitness recently introduced its members to a cardless technology in an effort to be more green and convenient. Members input a numerical code and place their finger on a scanner to gain access to the gym. No more cards to lose. No more fraudulent entry.

Other facilities use check-in cards with proximity readers embedded with a code that, when read, signals certain doors to open or turnstiles to function to let the member access the facility. This is especially useful for those gyms that are open 24/7 and have fewer staff to assist in the wee hours of the night and morning.

Thanks to the revolution in communication with smartphones and social networking apps like Twitter, location-based software is now available to sport facilities to use during special events to monitor fan comments in an effort to prevent disturbances before they happen.

Cybercrime, too, is becoming big business. According to one SIA report about a study conducted by the Ponemon Institute, the average cost per organization is $15 million per year. Vigilance in software to prevent viruses or hacking comes in many forms and should be part of the overall strategy to improve security.

"This is an ongoing process; it's not a completion," Skeens-Benton concluded.