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Fortney: Stampede and city partners beef up security in light of "world events"

Sunburns, stitches, lightning and lost kids.

Now, visitors to the Calgary Stampede will face another obstacle during those 10 heady days of fun and frivolity our city hosts each July: even longer waits in line and traffic.

Still, it’s a small price to pay to keep us safe from the unlikely but most severe consequences, weapons on the midway or even a large truck speeding into a crowd.

Such scenarios have long been on the minds of Stampede organizers, the Calgary Police Service, EMS, the Calgary Fire Department and the Calgary Emergency Management Agency.

Throughout the year, they work together to decide on the appropriate amount of security and safety measures for the approximately 350,000 parade-goers cheering on the more than 4,000 human participants, along with the one million or more who will once again pass through the turnstiles of Stampede Park over 10 days. 

Tuesday morning, the spokespeople for the above organizations meet the local media on the Plus-15 walkway on the Stampede grounds. They outline both mainstay and new measures, remind us all of precautions we can all take to ensure a smooth Stampede for all and, as always, provide an optimistic and upbeat prediction for the event.

With all this in mind, then, not a single spokesperson uses the dreaded “t” word in their addresses. It’s not out of ignorance: all are well aware that when it comes to soft targets, this city that’s far off the world radar definitely qualifies.

Neither has anyone forgotten that a young man by the name of Farah Mohamed Shirdon, an ISIS member said to have become radicalized in his former home of Calgary along with other associates, is on the United States’ Specially Designated Global Terrorists list.

It’s far more likely they’re just following the common sense adage of not alarming the public or courting trouble. Still, it’s clear such a circumstance was on their minds when they decided on the new plan to keep the downtown parade route closed to vehicles and policed until the last parade participant crosses this year’s new finish line at the east end of 6th Avenue.

“We know we are not immune here in Calgary to the dangers we see in the rest of the world,” says Jim Laurendeau, the Stampede’s vice president of events and park services. “Severe weather, criminal behaviour and violence around the world over the past year cause us to take a fresh look at our practises and make adjustments.”

One new thing park visitors will see is “airport-style” checking of all bags by security personnel also using metal detector wands, rather than the random checks of 2016.

With the amount of people at Stampede Park transforming the park into what Laurendeau calls “Alberta’s third largest city” for 10 days, the Calgary Police Service considers its presence that of a ninth district office working around the clock.

“We will have a highly visible presence both along the parade and in the park,” says CPS Insp. Leah Barber, who will be assisted by CCTV. “We’ll make sure we have the right resources in place.”

She also hopes citizens will assist. “Listen to your gut,” she says. “If you see something, say something.”

Hopefully, those assigned the task of keeping everyone safe will only have to deal with the usual hazards.

“Know where the emergency exits are,” says Carol Henke with the Calgary Fire Department, while EMS spokesman Stuart Brideaux urges Calgarians to “moderate” their alcohol consumption, especially in light of record high temperatures forecast for the opening weekend.

“Our basic message is always the same,” he says, urging people to drink lots of water and pay special attention to children. “Pace yourself when you’re down on the grounds … wear sunscreen.”

As far as anything worse, Tom Sampson of the Calgary Emergency Management Agency is confident that “we will have a good Stampede as safe as possible.”

“If we have an event, we will have one of the best responses we can have,” he adds, “because we have done those exercises, we’ve done those scenarios.”

vfortney@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/valfortney

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http://calgaryherald.com/news/local-news/fortney-stampede-and-city-partners-beef-up-security-in-light-of-world-events