From dogs to experimental radar, security steps up for “Big Game”

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Thursday, January 31, 2019

ATLANTA—As the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams scuffled in this year’s 53rd “Big Game,” a number of players in the security industry came together to keep it safe. From experimental radar to dogs to helicopters, and an increased number of law enforcement employees in and around Mercedes-Benz Stadium, and more, the two-years-in-the-making security plan was created by more than 40 federal, state and local agencies, talent and technology, working in unison to ensure safety to all.

Through the eyes of the Department of Homeland Security, this game is classified as a SEAR 1 event, meaning there’s high potential for terrorism or other criminal activity with such magnitude it requires the full support of the U.S. Government. With that in mind, here’s a round-up of five ways security was enforced on Sunday, February 3, 2019:

Detection dogs: Stealth Vigilance K-9 (SVK9), a private company providing K-9 detection services for drugs, firearms and explosives and based in Raleigh, N.C., was chosen to work the game to help identify possible explosives via odor, based on their patented detection technology.

“Our dogs have Vapor Wake training, the only patented body-worn explosives K-9 detection technology in the world, so we were asked to include our dogs as a security measure,” Geoff Beckwith (pictured with K-9 detection dog Watson), chief operating officer & Vapor Wake K-9 handler, licensed private investigator and retired police officer told Security Systems News.

While the specifics on the number of assigned dogs can’t be provided, Beckwith said that Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds and German Shorthair Pointers are used in their detection work. He did introduce Watson, however, a two-year-old Yellow Labrador Retriever who will be at the game.

“Watson’s favorite thing to do is play ball, where I throw for him and he retrieves directly back to me just to start all over again … and again … and again,” Beckwith said. “Most of the dogs enjoy this hobby. Each dog also enjoys one specific toy, typically a type of ball or Kong that is used as their reward when they find an odor they are trained to alert to; it’s their paycheck and what they go to work for.”

SVK9 dogs are dedicated to their jobs, but they enjoy their down time too. Take Watson, for example: “Watson sometimes sleeps on his back and also frequently snores very loudly,” Beckwith said.

When asked why he does what he does, Beckwith replied, “I get to work with amazing dogs; I am ‘blown away’ every time I see a successful Vapor Wake alert from our dogs.”

Helicopters: Two Bell 412 helicopters took flight in a grid pattern over areas of Atlanta at 150 feet or higher at speeds of approximately 80 miles per hour seeking out potential security issues and naturally occurring background radiation, according to a statement from the Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration. Flyovers took place during daylight hours only and were estimated to take approximately three hours to complete each area.

“The measurement of naturally occurring radiation to establish baseline levels is a normal part of security and emergency preparedness,” according to the administration’s statement.

Multi-Agency Command Center (MACC): This state-of-the-art command center is in a secret location close to the stadium that houses approximately 80 local, state and federal law enforcement personnel who are constantly monitoring with the aid of surveillance cameras, in addition to biometric technology, such as facial-recognition and license plate recognition (LPR). Other technologies are also deployed, but are on a “need-to-know” basis.

Radar: In response to Atlanta police’s zero-tolerance drone policy, Seattle-based and Bill Gates-funded Echodyne filed an application with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) asking for permission to operate two experimental radars that detect drones.

About the size of a single paperback book, the radar, known as EchoGuard, can detect, track, identify and follow flying objects in three dimensions up to .6 miles away, as demonstrated in a company video. The information gathered attempts to jam a drone’s control or navigation signals, or attack the drone with nets.

Speaking specifically regarding Sunday’s game and according to the filing, Echodyne intends to use this experience to “evaluate the performance of the radar alongside other sensors in a real-world environment.”

Truck Inspections: Any and all trucks delivering to the Georgia World Congress Center or Mercedes Benz Stadium will be scanned by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers using x-ray equipment brought in from the Savannah and Norfolk seaports, according to CBS, channel 46. All contents were monitored, but weapons and explosives were top of the list. Once a truck received an “all clear,” Atlanta police officers were on hand to escort trucks to their final destination to ensure nobody tampers with it.