Miami Marlins Step Up to the Plate

miami_marlins_logo_detailOn Monday, February 24 at 2:37 PM, I left a brief voice mail for Miami Marlins Director of Security, Greg Terp:

Hello sir,

My name is Eric Saferstein and I’m calling from Wheeling, West Virginia.

The reason for the call – I wanted to touch base with you on the issue of your emergency evacuation protocol.  I believe the standard used by Major League Baseball is really outdated.

I’m particularly concerned about a scenario where someone tries to evacuate your ballpark without your knowledge or consent, likely a mass cellular hoax, probably an attempt to create a panic which could result in a stampede.

Anyway, I created a website that offers some contingency plans and I’d very much like to share it with you.  I’ve been getting a lot of feedback on it as of late.

If you would, please give me a call me at your convenience.  My number’s 304-312-1395 and my name’s Eric.  Thank you very much and I hope to hear from you.

Mr. Terp did not return my call.

However, on Wednesday, February 26 at 7:44 AM, I got a call from Detective Aschen Brenner with the Miami Office of the Florida Division of the Department of Homeland Security.

Miss Brenner wanted to know why I left a “threatening” message at the Marlins team headquarters.  I explained to her that I have some very tangible concerns about fan safety which stem from the widespread advent of cellular technology.  She then inquired as to what my “intentions” were.  Once again, I explained how my concern for fan safety was universal and it applied to all large, confined crowds, not just the Miami Marlins ballpark.  I had left the same message with several other MLB organizations.

She made the assertion that the DHS is actively addressing this issue “behind the scenes” and they simply cannot make all the relevant information available to the general public.  I explained how the problem can only be ultimately solved through awareness campaigns, not mitigation.  She encouraged me to read about Fusion Centers (extensions of the DHS which operate and handle security issues at the state and local level).

During our 25 minute conversation, her tone and tenor changed markedly.  It actually became a very pleasant back and forth as we touched on various subjects such as emergency evacuation protocol, the hoax culture and cyber-security.  Most important, we discussed the notion that in today’s age of rapid cellular technology, combined with the popularity of social media and the breaking news phenomenon, incident commanders no longer possess the same degree of authority they once had.  Everyone has access to real-time, real-world information.

We then touched on other transformational issues.  If memory serves me correct, the call ventured into topics of emergency preparedness, civil rights, situational awareness and the lingering catch-22 (encompassing the dilemma presented by the artificially generated stampede).  We also discussed the Department of Homeland Security’s “If you See Something, Say Something Campaign.”  Obviously, this could not be more relevant.

In closing, I asked her to share the AGSAF website with her colleagues and explore the possibility of taking action (Simply start telling people that legitimate evacuation orders don’t come from cell phones.  The industry standard is to use the public address system).  Detective Brenner said, “Well, there’s only so much we can do.  Our resources are limited.”  To which I replied, “Well, snippets of knowledge are generally an inexpensive commodity.  Information like “stop, drop and roll” or “look both ways before you cross the street” doesn’t really cost that much.  And on that note, we said our goodbyes.

For me personally, this was a big deal.  I’ve received plenty of calls from concerned, appreciative and sometimes annoyed individuals.  Members of law enforcement and those who deal with emergency preparedness, police chiefs and incident commanders all across the United States.  But this represented my first verbal contact with the DHS.  I originally sent then DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano a letter on March 1, 2012, but I never received a response or any feedback.

There is a strange irony in all of this.  Detective Brenner echoed this sentiment during our conversation.  She mentioned how the American public has become irritated with the presence of “big brother.”  And that’s what makes this matter so disturbingly amusing.  I would actually welcome the federal government’s intrusion into my personal life.  They can feel free to monitor my phone calls and emails.  I’ll gladly relinquish ALL of my personal privacy in order to solve the far greater, vastly more urgent, societal issue.

The issues presented on the AGSAF website are transformative.  They will eventually be addressed, likely in the aftermath of a tragedy.  Since the artificially generated stampede is a looming public safety issue with incredibly dire ramifications, it’s my desire for the United States government to be proactive.

Our government goes to tremendous lengths and expenditure attempting to raise awareness on behalf of a variety of public safety issues.

From the big topics — airport screening, forest fire prevention, drunk driving campaigns, anti-smoking initiatives, etc.

To the seemingly trivial topics — requiring the disclosure of the amount of riboflavin in a bowl of Fruit Loops.

And there in lies the catch-22.  If the federal government acknowledges the problem, they own it.  And if a tragedy occurs, they reap the blame.  But it wouldn’t stop there.  An entire administration would be instantaneously delegitimized and rendered completely ineffective.  And while I sympathize with their dilemma, I place greater stock in the protection of innocent life and civil rights over political expediency.

So here’s my request.  It’s pretty straightforward… to Detective Brenner, current Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, President Barack Obama or basically anyone with a concern for public safety and fundamental human rights.

Just start telling people that if they’re in a large, confined crowd (stadium, arena, amphitheater, ballpark, motor speedway, etc.) and receive an emergency evacuation notice and/or panic-inducing information from their personal cell phone… it’s almost certainly a hoax designed to create an artificially generated stampede.

This catastrophe can be prevented.  All it takes is someone brave enough to pose a simple question.  And that very question lies in the center of the cell phone of the AGSAF logo.