Keeping Watch: Olympic Security Measures

One month away from the Opening Ceremony the Olympic presence can be seen across campus?not in the form of athletes and spectators, but in fences and tents.

Olympic security is always a big priority. But the events of Sept. 11 shook the nation and sparked an avalanche of safety concerns leading to changes in legislation and government policy across the nation.

Last week, federal officials banned all flights into or out of Salt Lake City International Airport during Opening and Closing Ceremonies. The Federal Aviation Administration also restricted private flights during the Games, creating a 45-mile radius restricted airspace area around Salt Lake City.

Officials created the no-fly zone to eliminate the possibility of another terrorist attack.

As the site for many Olympic activities, including the Opening and Closing Ceremonies and the Athletes’ Village, many U employees have expressed concern about safety during the Games.

Near the end of October, U President Bernie Machen forwarded an email from SLOC President Mitt Romney to all U employees.

In that letter Machen added a note of understanding. He sympathized with staff concerned about their safety during the Olympics.

“We are confident that the appropriate plans are in place to ensure the safety and security of faculty, staff and students as well as the U’s buildings. Although no one can guarantee that a terrorist attack will not occur during the Olympics, we do believe that such an occurrence is unlikely and that all possible steps are being taken to prevent such a thing,” Machen said.

In total, almost $300 million will be spent on security?the most ever for the Games.

It’s a price that needs to be paid, Romney said.

The Utah Olympic Public Safety Command, a collaborative security team created from local police agencies (including the U Police Department), the Secret Service and FBI, is in charge of keeping the Olympics safe.

After years of planning and months of training, Romney believes UOPSC is prepared to handle anything. More importantly, he said, the teams are trained to prevent anything.

The Secret Service developed the security plan for the Games. Their plan includes preventing humans carrying bombs or weapons, hijacked aircraft, poisoned water or food supplies, biological and chemical weapons, vehicles carrying bombs or other weapons, attacks on hazardous materials sites and more.

As a member of SLOC’s Board of Trustees Machen has received briefings on security measures.

Last month, Machen expressed his confidence in the established system.

“There won’t be a safer place to be,” he said.

As for now, security fences line the streets and borders of Heritage Commons. The gates to many of the entrances remain closed and closely monitored by security officers.

Along the south side of campus, near the stadium, temporary fences line entrances and parking lots where the gates wait for their Olympic takeover.

Wayne McCormack, director of the U’s Office of Olympic Coordination, suspects that during the month break for the Games campus will stay relatively calm.

“After class has ended Feb. 1, and the Opening Ceremony ends, things will quiet down until the Closing Ceremony,” McCormack said.

Many U officials say campus will lay empty similar to the break between Fall and Spring Semesters.

However, many employees must work.

The University Hospital will remain open along with Research Park.

On Wasatch Drive, employees who work in the park will be asked to keep their cars clean from clutter.

Security personnel will stop these employees on their way to work. Their cars will be searched?inside and out?on a daily basis.

These searches are necessary because of the close proximity between the park and the Village, U Police Chief Ben Lemmon said.

Lemmon has met frequently with members of the FBI and Secret Service.

He said surveillance cameras also dot the U. Although he would not give the location of these cameras or say specifically where they are aimed, Lemmon did report that the monitoring is not exclusive to the stadium and Village.

Security will tighten when the athletes staying in the village walk down to the stadium Feb. 8 for the Opening Ceremony.

Lemmon would not disclose the path they would take, but said it would be fenced and heavily guarded.

Military personnel will operate the metal detectors at the entrances and exits of the Village, said David Tubbs, executive director of UOPSC.

“We’re trying to keep things as normal as possible. We don’t want the Games to look like a large military camp,” but UOPSC must secure the events as well, Tubbs said.

UOPSC official say their plans have not changed significantly since Sept. 11.

The major difference being that before Sept 11. the Secret Service’s involvement was limited to the arrival of the U.S. president and vice president, he said. After the terrorists attacks, the Service has taken a key role in organizing and overseeing all security, Tubbs said.

“We are confident we had a very good plan before Sept. 11. Now we have a much better one,” he said.

U Emergency Notification Plan

In the case of an emergency or an immediate need to contact everyone on campus, U vice presidents designed a simple plan to contact as many people as possible.

The fastest way to spread information is through email and the telephone, said Loretta Harper, vice president for human resources.

U administrators then developed two systems; a calling tree and an email tree.

The vice presidents make up the trunk of the tree.

It will be their responsibility to contact the deans, department heads and directors. These people will then notify each person who works in his or her office.

If needed, Harper said they would have people carry word from building to building to get people informed.

Most U employees don’t seem to be worried or even concerned about safety issues during the Games, Harper said.

After Sept. 11, a few directors contacted Harper with concerns members of their offices had raised. Harper also received half a dozen emails from concerned staff members.

“The vice presidents have been briefed to the extent that we can be,” Harper said.

She is convinced that security officials are adequately prepared for nearly every situation.

Two of UUPD’s Finest Selected as Top Security Officials

Two U police officers will serve as top Utah Olympic Public Safety Command security officials for the Games.

Kent Curtis, who has served for 27 years with the UUPD, is Commander of Rice-Eccles Stadium.

Dan Stanton will use his 10 years of experience as a UUPD officer serving as Co Commander of the Athletes’ Village.

The two officers were selected by UOPSC administrators because of their interest in the position and because of the skills they posses, Lemmon said.

“Both of [the officers] have great organizational skill, good oral and communications practice and work well with the public,” he said.

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