At the Frontline: NASCAR security chief Gerry Cavis

Cavis discusses security preparations for the upcoming NASCAR racing season

Later this month, the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) will begin its 2011 racing season at the famed Daytona International Speedway and its signature event, the Daytona 500.

Overseeing security at this and the sport’s other racetracks, some of which measure more than two-and-a-half miles in circumference, is the responsibility of Gerry Cavis. Cavis, who serves as managing director of security for NASCAR, is a 30-year veteran of law enforcement and retired from the U.S. Secret Service in 2004 as special agent in charge of the Orlando, Florida field division.

As a Secret Service agent, Cavis helped to create the agency’s major event planning template, which is a security planning model that is now used by the Department of Homeland Security to help secure all major national events. In this “At the Frontline,” Cavis discusses how he’s leveraging his security experience to help keep fans, drivers and other personnel safe at NASCAR events.

With the 2011 NASCAR season getting underway later this month, what are some things that you are preparing for from a security perspective?

Every year, we prepare for each season by ensuring that we’ve looked at every incident from the past, our current operating structure, our current security procedures and we reassess all of that for updates and changes. This is based on incidents, as well as the current threat level and any changes to what the marketing people have done in terms of how they’re going to structure the event and the timeline. When you bring in large stars like Keith Urban or Tim McGraw as we have done in the past, it dictates a certain level of security for different issues that you have to address and it dictates a different timeline for how early people show up. Seventeen out of 20 of the nation’s largest annual events are NASCAR races and Daytona is one of those. It’s a huge undertaking for us and we want to make sure we review everything annually to ensure that we have the latest procedures and practices and the best case scenario for our security operation plan.

In recent years, there have been instances of fans throwing beer cans on the track to show their displeasure at the outcome of a race. What kinds of risks do these instances pose and what steps has the sport taken to curtail this type of behavior?

We are certainly looking to local track security and the training that they provide on several different issues. Number one, crowd management from the grandstands and what have they taught the ushers and the security personnel that they use and how well are they trained to manage those individuals should that type of incident occur? The next issue is what’s on the track? Are we under a caution? Are we in a hold? Are we actually racing or is this after the race and (the fans) are displeased with who the winner is? The security personnel on the track and the track management people, along with communications through the (track) tower and wherever we are at in terms of the event… we ensure all of those people are coordinating through security so that we can manage the incident as quickly and efficiently as possible with the proper resource. It happens. It’s certainly a concern that we have to constantly remain cognizant about.

How do you coordinate security with individual tracks and their security staffs?

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