During the SportEvac exit simulation at 35,000-seat Roberts Stadium on the Southern Mississippi campus, stadium management found it had to change its shelter-in-place procedures. “We learned during a sell-out that not everyone could be evacuated and sheltered in place on the concourses under the stadium seats as previously assumed during a severe weather event,” Marciani says.
Take for example if stadium security says that during lightning strikes or tornado warnings everyone will be moved under the seats to the concourses. “Well, they’ve made an assumption but they really don’t know if everyone will fit,” he says.
When SportEvac modeled the evacuation, it was able to determine that only 32,000 of the 35,000 attendees could be evacuated to safety under the stadium. Now, stadium authorities must find shelter for the surplus in the nearby student union or some other safe structure.
“That’s the beauty of SportEvac—it looks at your evacuation plans and forces you to make adjustments where necessary,” Marciani says.
SportEvac’s reputation is spreading beyond the halls of academia into mainstream professional venues. In March, a tabletop incident exercise was performed at New Meadowlands Stadium in New York City, home of the National Football League New York Jets and New York Giants. The purpose was to provide an opportunity to train stadium and security staff, local fire, police first responders and emergency managers in what they might expect if an incident occurred during a major spectator event.
New Meadowlands management declined to characterize the results of the SportEvac drill citing the data as “confidential.” But Marciani does say the overall goal of that project was for stadium management and local emergency response teams to assess their preparedness and identify areas for improvement. “The exercise at New Meadowlands Stadium and all future exercises [are] important because the whole point is to prepare first responders,” he says. “The better the training the more efficient the emergency response.”