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Vancouver gears up for the race to 2010

Vancouver’s 2010 Integrated Security Unit is launching the largest peacetime security operation ever undertaken in Canada as it counts down to the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games.  As Vancouver prepares to welcome the world, it is also a critical test of Canada’s best security forces and their ability to balance safety with hospitality.


May 25, 2009
By Jean Sorensen

That challenge is dropped squarely on the shoulders of the ISU’s RCMP Assistant Commissioner Bud Mercer, responsible for co-ordinating the massive security operations with a budget of $900 million. He steps into the role at a less than flattering time for the RCMP, as the force takes a public and international bashing over the taser death of  Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver International Airport in October 2007.  

Mercer says he is determined that security at the games will be “subtle but effective.” It’s a tall order and difficult to think of 7,000 police officers drawn Canada-wide from RCMP, regional and municipal police forces as “subtle.” But, they will assist in policing and play a supervisory role for some 4,000 private security personnel that will be deployed at venues in support capacities. Several thousand more Canadian Forces personnel are expected to assist but in a background or monitoring mode.  

“I hope the Olympic family (athletes, spectators, and dignitaries) remember the Olympics and don’t remember the security,” Mercer says. 

However, Olympic events pose a massive logistics and co-ordination task. In B.C., the two main venues — Whistler and Greater Vancouver — are approximately 150 kilometres apart but the actual Olympic “theatre” encompasses an area of 15,000 square kilometres, although some of that is mountain and water.

“You plan, you practice and you then have to execute the plan,” says Mercer of the preparation process. Two years of planning kicked off the plan’s 100 training exercises. The exercises were dubbed bronze, silver and gold — major events drawing together the participating security agencies. The bronze exercise involved 100 agencies “writing the script” for the event and 70 participated in a November 2008 event. It pulled together one of the largest assembly of delegates in Canada with 540 security members in the ISU offices in one day.

The silver exercise held February 2009 involved 100 agencies with 1,000 participants, including test events such as spectator screening at international events at Vancouver’s Pacific Coliseum and at Whistler. The gold exercise is slated for November 2009, the purpose of which is to confirm the readiness of the agencies to secure the Games, says Mercer.

Mercer’s almost unimaginable challenge is to prepare for all possible disasters. “It is a large undertaking,” he acknowledges. “It gets bigger by the month and the plan will be a lot bigger as we lead up to the Games,” he says.

Right now he relies on the 400 full-time security persons now working inside the doors of the Richmond, B.C.-based ISU office that are dedicated to Games security. They are not just ISU staff but drawn from 30 to 40 invested agencies such as municipal law enforcement and military.


 Layer by layer, plans ranging from air surveys of the Olympic theatre to custom-tailored security plans for venues are being put together. Mercer says preparation for the 2010 Games has been like planning for two Olympics, thanks to the challenge of geography. “One in the mountains and one in the Metro Vancouver area,” he says, adding the Sea to Sky (S2S) connector highway can create travelling and winter conditions. “I have been asked what the impact of the closure of the S2S highway would have during the Games,” says Mercer. “From a security perspective, it would have little impact. What we have in place will be effective in both the Whistler and Metro Vancouver area.”

Under the electronic eye
To help monitor all the activity, closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras are expected to play a large role in both surveillance, monitoring, and disaster response with capabilities such as facial-recognition software, responding to noise, reading, recognizing and recording license plates.

The ISU has already gone to Vancouver City council (armed with $2.6 million in funding) asking for CCTV installation at city-run “live sites” (public venues for watching coverage), Granville’s entertainment area, and Ballentyne cruise ship terminals.  A test is being proposed this summer using the city’s Celebration of Lights fireworks. The feed would be streamed to the city’s emergency operations centre, supplying response personnel with more on-site information.   

Getting the right mix   
“It’s a balancing act,” says Peter Enkirch, security director for Vancouver’s Downtown Four Seasons.  Enkirch wants to deter crime ranging from terrorism to common acts such as theft from hotel rooms, prostitution, pickpockets, counterfeit currency and identify theft, but, at the same time not inconvenience Olympic guests.    
“We are fortunate to have only one entrance,” he says, adding that long-time staff are shrewd at screening out suspicious foot traffic. Enkirch says the hotel also has CCTV cameras in public areas and is able to track a guest checking in and through the various floors of the hotel.

“We are also in the process of upgrading our cameras,” says Enkirch. 

 With his current system, Enkirch has the ability to download pictures of individuals of interest and relay them to police via the Internet, or circulate them to downtown hotel security directors who are now networking as a group. Identity theft, counterfeit currency and fraudulent credit cards remains another concern.
The Pan Pacific Hotel,  located in one of the city’s most high-security areas, has also been preparing for the Olympics. Overseeing security is Gordon Cook, rooms division manager at the hotel. “We have just done a session for our front line manager with Arete Safety and Protection Inc., on how to defuse angry guest situations.”

Cook says he has also become involved in a new information network set up with security managers at Canada Place. The Five Sails security committee consists of tenants or stakeholders such as the Vancouver World Trade Centre, the Vancouver Convention & Exhibition Centre,  cruise-ship terminal, and the Vancouver Port Authority and IMAX theatre. “We have installed cameras over the years,” he says, but staff will also serve as the “eyes and ears” to help curb crime.

Ports are wired
Canada Place houses the Vancouver Port Authority’s (VPA) operations and security centre. It features enhanced security from gate to strait, utilizing extensive fibre optics around the port’s north and south harbour areas to provide a closed-loop system able to utilize more than 250 cameras to view roads, control traffic, and view more than 25 major terminals.  The foreshore terminals employ their own security systems but also allow the VPA to bridge in if necessary. A recent upgrade was the installation of a biometrics vascular scanning system for the port’s control centre installed by PBA Consulting Engineers of Victoria and SimplexGrinnell out of Delta, B.C.
PBA Consulting had been a major supplier to VPA security. It has also supplied Fraser Surrey Docks with a site wide security system (23 cameras), six vehicle gates, 26 card readers and upgraded lighting. The card access system integrates with VPA’s system.


PBA has also been instrumental in providing security systems, including cameras at Centerm Gate. At Ballantyne Terminal, a second cruise ship facility other than Canada Place, PBA has designed a security and surveillance system streaming information to the VPA control room at Canada Place. PBA engineer Ian Steele says the VPA’s security system has been upgraded over the past 18 months to “increase the maritime domain awareness.”

The waterfront remains a focal point for security as the RCMP plan to contract vessels to moor at Ballantyne Terminal for accommodations. Richmond’s Steveston harbour has employed a new wireless network with 22 cameras by Firetide Inc., to manage security at its two wharves, which are three kilometres apart.  “We have areas over a body of water and it made more sense to use wireless technology,” says Joel Baziuk, Steveston operations supervisor. Until recently, there wasn’t the CCTV broadband capacity to feed back information fast enough to deploy wireless systems. The new Firetide wireless mesh nodes connect eight Sony IP cameras transmitting MPEG 4 level video at 30 frames per second. An IQinVision megapixel camera has been placed at the gate to capture licence plates of incoming and outgoing vehicles. Milestone software is also being used to manage the video feeds.

Baziuk says the harbour was faced with an aging CCTV system and needed to upgrade.
One of the network’s features is that any camera can be viewed via an Internet connection. As a result, the harbour can work with RCMP if necessary, allowing full or restricted access through a password.

Transit system wired and ready
Transportation links are prime terrorism and protest targets, as are airports.

As such, B.C.’s newest SkyTrain line will be heavily monitored both by staff and CCTV.  CanadaLine, the 19-kilometre rapid transit link, opening on Labour Day 2009, connects Vancouver’s downtown Waterfront Station with Richmond and Vancouver International Airport.  Intercon is providing the surveillance system using over 400 fixed and PTZ dome cameras on the 16 new stations. It has more than 500 IP video transmitter/receiver modules, 44 networked video recorders and 20 workstations running Indigo Vision’s Control Centre software. The IP video system will be integrated into transit authority TransLink’s overall SCADA system used at its operations and maintenance centre. 

Ken Hardie, information officer for TransLink, says federal funding for infrastructure has allowed transit to steadily ramp up all security — TransLink has its own transit police force with 160 members.  “The Olympics has just put another layer over that,” he says.  A new feature will include cameras on trolley buses beginning with the newer vehicles (about 14 per cent of the fleet or 228 of 1,600 buses) outfitted in Phase I by year-end 2009.  A total of 188, 40-foot buses will have five cameras, while the remainders are 60-foot trolleys having seven cameras. The trolleys, because of their electrical systems, are easier to adapt.  A further 1,220 record-only cameras are being installed with Phase II and III planned at a later date as funding becomes available.  “The cameras will be downloaded at the end of each day,” says Hardie. Drivers will have the ability to focus cameras in on a situation but they cannot transmit images.

TransLink’s Gary Hinz, manager of emergency management, says risk and threat assessment is being done throughout the lines and on key “nexus” points such as the Waterfront Station, a junction for the West Coast Express, the SeaBus, SkyTrain and the new CanadaLine. “We will be providing more safety and security measures and ramping up a “see-it and say-it” campaign,” he says. The CCTV systems have gone through a refinement, says Hinz, but “the public is still our eyes and ears.”


Hinz says much of the work is being funded under the federal Transit-Secure program.  Physical enhancements include improved lighting, improved CCTV and the installation of “smart-fencing” warning of intruders.  
The Olympics are just one factor in causing B.C.’s ferry fleet to tighten security. BC Ferries security manager Monique Joubarne says Transport Canada has announced its plans to stiffen regulatory requirements for domestic ferries as an overall enhanced security measure under the Marine Transport Security Regulations (MTSR). She has been implementing new programs aimed at meeting the anticipated inclusion of domestic ferries into the MTSR. The programs in place are “well above” the minimum MTSR requirements anticipated, she says, and will accommodate any Olympic concerns. Staff has handed out 10,000 brochures alerting passengers to security measures such a restricted and prohibited areas, CCTV (at terminals and on ferries), increased perimeter fencing, waterside screening and increased security patrols. A successful pilot in 2008 with explosive-sniffing canines has led to a program beginning August 2009 which will see revolving canine checks at major terminals.   

BC Ferries is also opening a new operations and security centre in May in Victoria.  “We will have the capability of monitoring and assisting all the terminals.”

Airline security expected to be high
The ISU’s RCMP Sgt. Cam Kowalski, aviation planner for the 2010 games, says a 30-nautical mile security zone exists around Vancouver and Whistler, which includes the Sea-to-Sky Highway.  The security zone has heightened layers of security as one moves towards a 13-nautical mile core of restrictive area. “Over each venue is restricted airspace and only those aircraft authorized will be allowed to operate within it,” says Kowalski. This includes ISU, military, medical evacuation, essential services, and media.  The restricted zones remain in place from January 29 to March 24.

“There is new technology on the Sea-to-Sky corridor to allow better view of the aircraft,” says Kowalski, adding that NavCan is using Multilateration (MLAT) systems and is receiving $25 million from Transport Canada for the installation.  MLAT has been used in past Olympics. It allows air traffic controllers the ability to detect and determine unauthorized intruders in the air space.   


Kelowna, Prince George, Victoria, and Abbotsford airports are designated as screening sites for all traffic originating outside B.C. that has not gone through a Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) regulated airport.  “We have had discussions (amongst the four airports) to see how it is going to happen,” says Kelowna airport security manager Neil Drachenberg. 

Kelowna airport was the CATSA test site for full-body scanning and imagining using millimetre wave or mmWave technology. A CATSA spokesman says a report of the findings has gone to Transport Canada but no decision has been made about its use for the Olympics.

Flights originating throughout B.C. from areas where no CATSA screening occurs are required to pass through one of 21 enhanced or newly-designated CATSA sites established to accommodate charters, private aircraft, helicopters, flight schools, corporate aircraft, and smaller scheduled operators. These 21 screening stations include points such as Port Hardy, Vancouver harbour, YVR South Terminal, Pitt Meadows, and Victoria harbour, to name a few.

Experts say the aviation plan is still evolving as rules and procedures are developed.  

Check-points for venue hardening     
Olympic venue security is going to have an airport feel,  says Ray Mey, now a GardaWorld consultant using his expertise as former FBI member responsible for Olympic security, and speaking on what Vancouver can expect.  Olympic screening has become thorough and extensive. “They will have security screening points and the capability to do all kinds of searching from metal to IED (improvised exploding devices).  There will be a lot of measures in place such as not allowing containers (with liquid) into venues or back-packs not searched thoroughly,” says Mey. 

Garrett Metal Detectors is supplying 550 walk-through scanners (6500i model) and approximately 1,100 Superscanners for security around the venue areas. The first installation of metal detectors will go into the main media centre in January 2010.

The equipment at the Vancouver games will feature some new options from the Beijing games, including the ability to pre-program the walk-throughs for more accurate directional counting which can help gauge the number of security staff needed.

While Garrett can detect metals, concern has been raised over non-metal threats such as explosives and combustible liquids.  Explosive-sniffing dogs will be used on site. 

Finally, a consortium was chosen to provide guard services during the Games. The Contemporary Security Canada consortium is an integrated team of local and international experts and includes: Contemporary Security Canada Inc., Aeroguard Security Ltd., and United Protection Security Group Inc. (UPGS).  
When all is said and done, those involved hope the outcome of all the security measures meet Mercer’s goal: subtle, but effective.