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NDSP ensures safety of students, fans during football gamedays

| Friday, September 8, 2017

Approximately 80,000 people will enter Notre Dame Stadium to watch the Irish take on the Georgia Bulldogs on Saturday. Campus safety staff will be working hard to ensure the safety of each and every guest, chief of Notre Dame Security Police (NDSP) Keri Kei Shibata said.

“Our goal is really to have a pervasive culture of safety so that everyone has safety as their top priority and everyone is taking ownership, and reporting issues, and coming up with ideas, addressing problems and things like that,” she said.

Notre Dame Security Police ensure the safety of the 80,000 fans who enter the stadium on football gamedays.Chris Collins | The Observer
Notre Dame Security Police ensure the safety of the 80,000 fans who enter the stadium on football gamedays.

Shibata said there are four key components of game day security: campus safety staff, technology, stadium security policies — such as the prohibited items policy — and good communication.

“We do ask different groups like the ushers and the concessions team — we ask them at the beginning of their day to take a look through their spaces and make sure everything’s safe and that they don’t see any safety or security concerns,” she said. “They have to check in with us and let us know that’s done before we’ll open the buildings for use, so we’re really making sure that everything is safe.”

Shibata said the construction of Campus Crossroads presented “a challenge in a positive way” to game day security efforts. Architects of the new buildings consulted with NDSP, the fire department and events management to discuss how to design structures conducive to security and safety.

“The architects of the buildings also have a lot of expertise around security and these types of facilities, so I believe it was designed very well, which puts us in a great place to get started,” she said. “Because if we built the buildings and then decided how we were going to do security, that would be not as effective.”

Moving the band off the field and into the stands has increased safety for both football players and band members, Shibata said.

“That has some to do with wanting to clear the field itself of people so that people are not at risk of being hurt,” she said. “I would say that’s an improvement in safety, for the members of the band and the players and the people working on the field, so I would say that does increase safety.”

Program manager for crowd control in Notre Dame athletics Jim Smith worked as an usher for 17 years prior to assuming his current position. He said ushers serve as the “eyes and ears” for stadium security.

“We’re really not here to be the fun police,” he said. “All of our policies are in place for the safety and protection of the fans and the guests. Although you may not know why that policy is in place, a lot of thought has gone into it to make sure that we’re protecting the fans and so that they have a fun, family-friendly environment.”

Smith said fans should familiarize themselves with the University’s security policies — in particular, the prohibited items policies.

“Prohibited items policies is generally where we get the most pushback, if people are going through security and when we have to turn people away because they’re in possession of something that’s prohibited,” he said.

Ushers also get pushback from students when discouraging pushups after touchdowns, Smith said.

“ … At first it looks like we’re just trying to stop people from having fun, but when you think about it, the people who are sitting next to the person doing pushups who aren’t involved in pushups are the ones who will most likely be injured if that person gets dropped on top of them,” he said. “Most of the time, when we explain that to somebody they go, ‘Ah, that makes sense.’”

Ultimately, Shibata said, communication amongst security staff is the most challenging, but also one of the most important parts, of gameday security.

“There are so many moving parts and so many thousands of people involved in making gameday go well and they all have their own little pieces of responsibility for safety,” she said. “ … So it’s a lot of coordination and good communication is really important.”

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About Natalie Weber

Natalie Weber graduated in 2020 from the University of Notre Dame, with a Bachelor of Arts in English and minors in journalism and computing. A native of Grand Junction, Colorado she most recently served as Managing Editor at The Observer. // Email: [email protected] // Twitter: @wordsbyweber

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