Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Baseball in the Heartland

Excerpt from U.S. Coast Guard “Proceedings of the Marine Safety & Security Council” magazine. By LT Michael Anderson and Mr. Todd Epperson, U.S. Coast Guard; and Mr. James Holman, City of Pittsburgh Emergency Medical Services/River Rescue Division.

What do Pittsburgh’s PNC Park, Cincinnati’s Great American Ballpark, and St. Louis’s Busch Stadium have in common? The answer is not that they all serve $5 draft beers and foot-long hot dogs. Although that may be true, the answer is that they are all located on the banks of the Western Rivers system.

The Mississippi, Ohio, Missouri, and other tributary rivers that form this river system play host to many other professional sports on their shores, but perhaps none more prominent than the great American pastime—baseball. Because many of these real-life fields of dreams are in such close proximity to the waterways, they pose unique safety and security concerns for the Coast Guard units that serve those communities.

Baseball, Major and Minor
The shorelines of the Western Rivers are peppered with professional baseball stadiums—some big, some small. Minor league baseball stadiums such as John O’Donnell Stadium and Riverview Stadium are both located on the banks of the Mississippi River.

When the Majors Come to Town
Major league baseball is not only extraordinarily popular, it’s also big business. With big business comes high-profile events like the World Series and All-Star games.

Both of these events have occurred at venues located on the Western Rivers system—Busch Stadium and PNC Park, respectively. Both of these events created significant operational, tactical, and logistic challenges.

In hosting the MLB All-Star game and related events, the City of Pittsburgh Police Bureau and PNC Park officials took the lead in developing the overall security plan. Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Pittsburgh and the City of Pittsburgh River Rescue Unit coordinated closely to provide maritime safety and security for the five-day event, and co-chaired the maritime operations working group.

Coast Guard forces, working closely with Pittsburgh River rescue resources, conducted more than 300 security sweeps and security spot-checks of passenger and recreational vessels and dozens of dive sorties on commercial vessel hulls and sea walls. They also executed over 35 passenger vessel physical security escorts.

The photo depicts Coast Guard 25-foot defender-class boats operating during the All-Star game home run derby competition, as kayakers attempt to retrieve balls hit out of PNC Park and into the Allegheny River.

To prepare, Coast Guard forces and federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies participated in an area maritime security training and exercise program (AMSTEP) tabletop exercise (TTX) sponsored by the Coast Guard and hosted by MSU Pittsburgh. The exercise took place three months prior to the All-Star game and was a key element in enhancing strong partnerships across a broad spectrum of stakeholders.

The objectives of the All-Star game AMSTEP TTX were consistent with many of those emphasized in the overall Pittsburgh area maritime security committee plan and included becoming aware of vulnerabilities, developing strategies to reduce risk, implementing procedures to manage consequences if needed, improving communication, and conducting training to increase responder/personnel preparedness.

World Series Preparations
In preparing for three World Series games at St. Louis’s Busch Stadium, Coast Guard Sector Upper Mississippi River (SUMR) faced many of the same challenges. One major difference, though, was significantly less time to prepare.

With the All-Star game scheduled as far as 12 months in advance, officials in Pittsburgh had more time to plan, acquire resources, and test contingencies. Once it had been determined that St. Louis would host at least one game of the World Series, city, state, and federal entities had just a few weeks to bolster existing public safety and security plans and establish a comprehensive plan.

SUMR coordinated closely with the St. Louis City Emergency Management Agency to stand up a unified command, and surged to meet unified command needs while providing active duty and civilian personnel support.

Busch Stadium’s close proximity to area highways, interstates, and the Mississippi River compounded the importance of maintaining full visibility to all threats. Plans were put in place to monitor all hazardous material and hazardous cargo transits on the Mississippi River in the vicinity of St. Louis, as well as around St. Louis’s light rail mass transit systems and area bridges.

The seamless integration of local, state, and federal response and law enforcement agencies during the All-Star game and World Series resulted in incident-free events enjoyed by thousands of enthusiastic baseball fans.

About the authors:
LT Michael Anderson served as a helicopter rescue swimmer prior to attending Officer Candidate School in 1998. He has since completed a joint staff and tours in the marine safety field. He holds a Master of Science degree in business ethics from Duquesne University.

Mr. Todd Epperson has worked as the port security specialist for Sector Upper Mississippi River. Mr. Epperson retired after 25 years of service from the Air Force as a security specialist. He graduated from Webster University in 2005 with a Master of Arts degree in business and organizational security management.

Mr. James D. Holman has been the administrative chief of the City of Pittsburgh's River Rescue Division. He has served on the area maritime security committee and other public safety committees, and co-chaired port security operations for the 2006 All-Star games.

For more information:
Full article and “U.S. Coast Guard Western Rivers Sectors” edition of USCG Proceedings is available at www.uscg.mil/proceedings. Click on “archives” and then “2007-08 Vol. 64, Number 4” (Winter 2007-08).

Subscribe online at http://www.uscg.mil/proceedings/subscribe.asp.

Online survey available at: http://www.uscg.mil/proceedings/survey.asp.

Direct requests for print copies of this edition to: HQS-DG-NMCProceedings@uscg.mil.