The opening ceremonies for the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships on Monday, Feb. 2 at Solaris Championship Plaza in Vail will culminate in more than three years of planning by members of the event’s Safety and Security Committee, chaired by Vail Police Chief Dwight Henninger. The Safety and Security Committee is one of 21 operational groups that have been tasked by the Vail Valley Foundation and the Local Organizing Committee to help coordinate the large-scale event which will attract an estimated 150,000 spectators over the two weeks. The security staffing will involve the coordination of more than 700 credentialed emergency responders from local, state and federal agencies.
Drawing upon his experiences at the Winter Olympics in 2002 and 2010, a presence at past ski championships, as well as his national response role on wildfires in the West and Hurricane Katrina, Chief Henninger has been incorporating lessons learned into the years-long security planning. This includes the Boston Marathon bombing which has become a game-changer for sporting events across the U.S. and has necessitated the implementation of security bag checks that will be taking place at Championship venues in Vail and Beaver Creek as a precaution.
Chief Henninger says that while on any given day, there will be as many as 200 emergency personnel from law enforcement, fire, EMS and other disciplines available to respond, the goal of the planning effort is to be transparent to the public. “If we’re successful, the public should never know that this committee existed,” says Henninger. The goal is to deliver a safe and professional event in an uncompromised and enjoyable experience. “This means the right people are in the right places so they may anticipate problems, respond effectively, adapt to every situation and recover from an incident, if needed,” he says. The coordination includes a completely integrated incident command system, a seamless communications system as well as effective public safety relationships that have been developed during previous training exercises in preparation for Championships.
All the while, Chief Henninger has been assuring local community members that routine calls for service won’t change during the event. “We’ll have full staffing to meet our day-to-day call load responsibilities,” says Henninger. This is because the event is being supported by public safety representatives from more than 20 local, regional, state and federal agencies. One-hundred percent of these staffing costs are being funded within the respective budgets of the participating agencies because of the considerable experience the responders will be gaining by their involvement, according to Henninger.
One of the most significant community benefits resulting from the work of the Safety & Security Committee will live on in six legacy projects that will have a lasting impact throughout the region. Chief Henninger identifies the six benefits as: 1) upgrades to the public safety radio system in Eagle County for increased capacity; 2) improvements to the Eagle County Emergency Operations Center which will continue to provide a venue for incident coordination and support after the event; 3) institutionalization of the Incident Command System (ICS) protocols throughout Eagle County for improved multi-agency response coordination; 4) completion of a video camera system in Vail’s public areas to include 23 security cameras in Vail Village and Lionshead; 5) enhancement of the Event Command Post in the Vail Police Department with the addition of eight video monitors that will be used for ongoing high-profile events and large-scale emergencies; 6) creation of a new communications tool, www.ecemergency.org, which provides a single outlet for distribution of real-time emergency and public information updates from agencies throughout Eagle County.
State and federal agencies have been monitoring the potential for safety threats associated with the World Championships and will continue the assessments throughout the event. To date, the assessments have not identified any threats or risks connected to the event. If a threat or risk is identified, Chief Henninger says the public will be notified via EC Alert (www.ecalert.org), www.ecemergency.org and media outlets.
The presence of public safety officials will be most noticeable at event venue areas during the Championships. This will include the Birds of Prey finish line in Beaver Creek, Championships Plaza at Solaris in Vail Village and the Golden Peak stadium in Vail at the bottom of the Riva Bahn Gondola (Chair 6). The bag checkpoint stations will be located at the venue entries and will be used to search all bags prior to entry into the secured areas. Bags must be smaller than 9” x 10” x 17” and may contain items such as cameras, mobile devices, binoculars, cowbells, water bottles, snacks, etc. Clothing and blankets are also permissible if carried by hand. For safety reasons, the following items will be banned from the event venues: ammunition, large quantities of rope, wire and batteries; firearms; knives with blades over 3.5”; glass bottles; alcohol; umbrellas; pepper spray and air horns. Narcotics and drug paraphernalia will be confiscated on site and the person in possession will be subject to arrest. Marijuana consumption is prohibited at the venues and will be strictly enforced. A flier with details on the bag check screening will be available at many lodges throughout the valley as well as the Welcome Centers in Vail Village and Lionshead. The flier may also be downloaded online at http://vailbeavercreek2015.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/2015-BagCheckFlier.pdf.
Chief Henninger says a critical component of the safety and security communications effort will be to create widespread awareness about the bag check policy. Also, awareness regarding unattended packages will also be critical. If members of the public see a bag or package left unattended, they will be asked not to touch or move the item, to alert the nearest security or police officer or to call 911 in case of an emergency.
Public safety messages during the 2015 Alpine World Ski Championships will be communicated via EC Alert (www.ecalert.org) and www.ecemergency.org. This will include any emergency information as well as daily tips and safety announcements such as staying hydrated, preventing frostbite, use of sunscreen, safe tire tread, etc.
Chief Henninger says the safety and security emphasis for the upcoming World Championships is far greater than what was provided during the 1989 and 1999 World Championships in Vail and Beaver Creek. He says the state of affairs for securing sporting events has changed dramatically since 2013 following the Boston Marathon Bombing.
Participating agencies involved in the safety and security response for the Alpine World Ski Championships include the following:
- Vail Police Department
- Vail Fire Department
- Town of Vail Public Works and Transportation
- Avon Police Department
- Eagle River Fire Protection District
- Vail Resorts - Vail and Beaver Creek
- Eagle County Sheriff’s Office
- Eagle County Public Health
- Eagle County Paramedic Services
- Eagle County Office of Emergency Management and County Attorney
- Vail Public Safety Communications Center
- Vail Valley Foundation
- Lone Star Security
- Gypsum Fire Department
- Copper Mountain Consolidated Metropolitan District
- Jefferson County Sheriff's Office
- Grand Junction Police and Fire Departments
- 5th Judicial District Attorney’s office
- Colorado State Patrol
- Colorado State Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management
- Colorado Department of Transportation
- Colorado Information Analysis Center
- US Forest Service
- Transportation Security Administration
- Department of Homeland Security
- Secret Service