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Wednesday August 28, 2013 Operation Urgent Impact: UF, UAA team with local agencies to keep Swamp safe

Updated: 4:52pm, August 28

Game day at The Swamp

The UAA and UF teamed with local agencies recently to keep The Swamp a safe and fun place.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Ben Hill Griffin Stadium is the largest sports venue in Florida and transforms into one of the state’s most populated zip codes on Saturdays each fall.

The Swamp awakens from its quiet offseason on Saturday when the Gators host Toledo in the season opener.

Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks 12 years ago, the world of sports has increased security measures like the world beyond the stadium gates.

Another reminder of why -- and how security must always be a high priority at large sports events -- occurred April 15 at the Boston Marathon. A pair of bombs exploded seconds apart near the finish line, killing three people and seriously wounding dozens more.

The bombs and their aftermath gridlocked one of America’s most famous cities for several days until the perpetrators were caught and fears of another attack were alleviated

What if an incident involving casualties and mass injuries happened outside The Swamp on a gorgeous fall Saturday afternoon?

In conjunction with more than a dozen law-enforcement and public-safety agencies, the University Athletic Association and University of Florida Police conducted Operation Urgent Impact in late May. The event included more than 500 people, 100 of them volunteers who served as actors during the exercise.

The exercise’s focus was to determine how the UAA and other local agencies would perform in an emergency situation outside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on game day.

“We’ve always looked at the stadium as a potential target we want to protect,” said Chip Howard, executive associate athletics director for internal affairs. “But what Boston did was give us a better idea of what we needed to look for.

“The threats are changing, communication techniques are changing, the people change, so we’re always looking for ways to keep our procedures state of the art and to keep all our folks informed and engaged.”

The four-hour drill was based on the premise that a media helicopter hovering above the stadium crashed at the intersection of Gale Lemerand Drive and Stadium Road two hours prior to kickoff of a sold-out game and with more than 150,000 people in the general vicinity of the stadium.

The exercise was conducted as if the helicopter crash caused mass casualties and other injuries to spectators. Both the North Florida Regional Medical Center and UF Health participated and prepared as if they would be accepting an influx of patients.

Once the exercise was completed, the drill was reviewed and all participating agencies prepared follow-up reports that focused on ways to improve operations.

Howard said it is important for the UAA and other local organizations to work together to make a game at The Swamp – in and outside the stadium – as safe as possible.

“Boston illustrated that you need to be aware of what’s going on outside your stadium, too,” Howard said. “And have the people in place, obviously to watch what’s going on, but then respond to what’s going on. Our response to Boston is Operation Urgent Impact. That’s what we were focused on with the exercise.

“I think you will see some increased presence and a heightened awareness outside the stadium. I think that is based on intelligence we have gathered from our law enforcement partners as well as what happened at Operation Urgent Impact to better serve our fans and make sure we provide the safest environment we can.”

OPERATION URGENT IMPACT

When: May 30, 2013

Where: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, UF Health, North Florida Regional Medical Center, VA Hospital

Agencies: UAA, UF Police Department, UF Environmental and Safety, Alachua County Sheriff’s Office, Alachua County Fire Rescue, Alachua County Emergency Management, Gainesville Police Department, Gainesville Fire Rescue, North Florida Regional Medical Center, UF Health (formerly Shands at UF), Alachua County Health Department, Veterans Health Systems (VA Hospital), Select Specialty Hospital, Regional Transit System, Florida State University Police (four officers sent to observe and provide outside evaluation)

Participants: 500

Purpose: To evaluate UF’s and the UAA’s mass casualty plans in support of medical surge operations at area hospitals and other public health agencies in Alachua County and Gainesville

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