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The Use of Community Stadiums: A Charleston Best Practice

AD | 03.26.2007 | 13:14:267270 |
In the event of ANY disaster, stadiums can serve an important function. They have large outdoor and indoor open spaces. They have high ground (stands and press box facilities). They have community identification. They have route access to other emergency support. They have the potential of emergency power (generator) lighting. They have existing medical rooms and equipment. They have locker room and restroom facilities. They lend themselves to the potential of pre-planned distribution (concession areas, parking lot) for water, medical aid, batteries, sandbags, diapers/clothing, food). They can serve well as assembly points and communication coordination (press box areas) for National Guardsmen or police.
I'm not sure it has been practiced in my community (to my knowledge). We are currently building a stadium for my college (The Citadel). I serve as chairman of that effort. For three and a half years I have pursued other uses and found a partner in the South Carolina National Guard. It is apparent that this Best Practice will be coordinated for the Charleston area. To an extent, the New Orleans Super Dome was used as a shelter during Hurricane Katrina less than 2 years ago. However, it was apparent that the City of New Orleans was not prepared for this use.

This usage can make use of existing resources without other outside funding

I am not aware of existing barriers to its use

Improvements can be made by coordinating the South Carolina National Guard with the Charleston City Police, the Charleston Fire Department, State Ports Authority, existing Charleston County Emergency response teams, all local hospitals and The Citadel (cadet volunteers).

Key participants are the S.C. National Guard Commander, City Mayor, County Council Chairman, MUSC President, Fire Chief, Police Chief, The Citadel President, State Ports Authority Director and several other administrative leaders from other emergency response groups

A devised "Plan of Response" needs to be available by computer email to each entity. That plan needs to be put into a "trial run" every year so that the teams identify their respective responsibilities. Other technologies need to be of a communicative nature and may already exist. An emergency response channel should be identified for radio and telephone retrieval. Other technologies should be devoted to emergency storage items for potable water, food, weaponry, medical supplies and evacuation plans.

The most unique aspect of the Best Practice of Stadium Utilization is that they already exist. Stadiums are in every small community in America due to the popularity of college and high school football, track and soccer. In major population areas, these stadiums are much more evident as they serve professional teams on major traffic ingress and egress routes. The invaluable added dimension of other contiguous surface parking can be of support value to people and vehicular needs. Stadiums are readily identifiable structures in a community and are identifiable visibly to those not of the community. Invariably they have much foul weather (covered) space and adequate communication resources. Their existence everywhere in America for what is currently very limited usage opens their potential to other funding for response needs should this Best Practice be adopted.

The three most immediate steps necessary to make stadiums the focal points of a community response are A) coordination of response teams to their access and usage, B) community education of preparedness and response procedures, and C) practical outfitting of stadiums for emergency non-perishable supplies in anticipation of the stadium serving as the coordination center for a given community. Larger communities have the advantage of having multiple stadium sites (high schools, colleges and professional teams).

My advocacy of stadiums as communication and response centers is well taken with our own South Carolina National Guard. Our particular stadium is only used 6 days per year for college football. That leaves 359 other days to function in service to the community (protection and response). In the event of a natural disaster (hurricane, earthquake) or other terrorist type emergencies, a stadium has all of the important features that complement the best and most workable response to a community.

Tom McQueeney

Citadel Board of Visitors

Charleston, SC

843-297-5555 cell

843-723-5555 ofc