Inside Auburn’s football stadium safety plan: Heat, storms and more

AUBURN — The events that unfolded in the third quarter of Auburn football’s 2022 season opener victory were all painstakingly crafted.

As storms galloped across eastern Alabama, Lee County Emergency Management Agency monitored the lightning distance from Jordan-Hare Stadium, where a reported attendance of 84,562 people watched the action on the pitch, more focused on who would be Auburn’s quarterback the rest of the season.

Soon, all these supporters would be asked to completely evacuate the metal bleachers and the stadium. Lightning within eight miles triggered a chain of communications ending with the AU “Unified Command” activating weather delay procedures. Campus buildings surrounding the stadium were unlocked for spectators to take shelter as a downpour ensued, and the stadium was open for back-to-school by the time 30 minutes passed without a lightning strike. detected within the radius.

GAME DAY CUSTOMSSpirit of Auburn football: 2021 return of ‘War Eagle’ of the COVID year also meant bittersweet last flight of a bird

AUBURN PLAYERSFor Donovan Kaufman, 9 years of football without a father in the stands ends in Auburn’s season opener

Everything from inclement weather to potential security from game-day bomb threats is overseen by campus officials who specialize in emergency management. Football Saturdays are Auburn’s biggest events. Each of them is planned several weeks in advance.

“Our security is layered in the sense that we have a great responsibility and we look at everything from top to bottom,” said UA Executive Director of Campus Security Kelvin King, who previously spent 27 years at the FBI. “We’re looking from the ground up to the sky. … Anything that could impact the game day experience.”

Local, state and federal agencies are involved, with Auburn PD, Opelika PD and the Lee County Sheriff’s Office all providing security personnel. Lee County EMA is able to provide equipment and other state resources that the university does not own.

How many people are involved on the ground and behind the scenes?

“Hundreds,” Auburn Deputy Police Chief Clarence Stewart said. “I can literally say hundreds.”

“I would say just less than a thousand,” King said.

As the blitz plan went into effect last week, Auburn stepped up another one of its weather plans while staying on high alert for more serious security with campus bomb threats in the news this summer.

Why Auburn has built a more comprehensive heat plan for football games in 2022

Floyd Johnson was a Big Ten guy before Auburn. His previous jobs were in Michigan and Iowa.

Midwestern warmth is one thing. Southern humidity is another.

Especially considering how Auburn’s schedule lined up in his first full year as director of emergency management.

“You look at the heat we’ve had over the summer – it’s been pretty hot – and then you look at five games in a row in the hottest part of the season. Hey, that’s got to be our priority. Mitigating that threat .

His team has decided to increase the resources available to fans. Previously, two cooling stations were available during football matches. There are now eight of them, including five in the hall of Jordan-Hare Stadium and three outside the building. Cooling areas include water refill stations, misting fans, and areas for fans to rest in the shade if they need a break from the sun exposure inside the stadium bowl. Cooling zones will be used when the heat index is expected to exceed 90 degrees. Fans have needed medical attention in the past.

“The huge amount of people showing up at this stadium and how crowded it is,” Stewart said, “you wouldn’t believe the number of calls we’re getting for (heat-related illness).”

“People will be able to sit down, cool off,” Johnson said. “The idea is to help people take charge and give them the tools they need to prevent these injuries.”

A map of Jordan-Hare Stadium cooling stations for Auburn's 2022 football season.
A map of Jordan-Hare Stadium cooling stations for Auburn's 2022 football season.

Defend against bomb threats on football game days

In July, Auburn received a bomb threat at its nursing school. It turned out to be wrong, but the risk is always on the minds of security specialists, especially on busy Saturdays.

Administrators are understandably hesitant to share too many details about the security plan for fear it could be compromised, but measures implemented by law enforcement include K-9 units and security surveillance equipment. air. Johnson leads tabletop drills with security personnel and hires actors to participate in more specific mock drills.

The delicate balance is to keep in mind that fake threats happen, and causing a panic among 80,000 fans is also dangerous.

“There are people investigating these threats. So the FBI took the lead,” King said. “Have designated a single field office as the point of contact for investigating the college bomb threats. We will listen to what the intelligence is and always make the best decision possible with the information we have. Are we doing it in the empty? Absolutely not.”

About the author