Posted: July 7, 2015 2:28 pm
Around 75,000 to 100,000 golf spectators are flocking to Lancaster County for the U.S. Women’s Open, so who is handling security?
Some local agencies will help and the U.S. Golf Association will foot their bill, not taxpayers. The seven-day event started Monday and runs through Sunday at the Lancaster Country Club.
The Manheim Township Police Department, which has 65 uniformed officers, is the primary law enforcement agency. Chief Neil Harkins said he has scheduled an extra 10 or so officers to work throughout the tournament, though the exact number could change.
Some will work at the course and others will direct traffic at various detours.
All extra pay will be reimbursed by the USGA, said USGA Championship Tournament Director Barry Deach.
The USGA will provide its normal number of its own security personnel for the event, Deach said, declining to give details. Many local, state and federal organizations, from Pennsylvania Homeland Security and state police to the FBI, are also involved.
The USGA has local contracts with: East Lampeter Township police, since four of the course holes are in that township; Manheim Township Fire Rescue for fire service; and Lancaster General Health for its extra medical-related expenses, Deach said.
The agencies have been planning for all possible contingencies for more than a year, Deach said, adding he has no large security concerns.
“The goal is to make this a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone attending, the residents who live nearby and anybody driving in the area,” Harkins said.
On the possibility of terrorism at such an event, officials downplayed the risk.
“We have absolutely no evidence or intelligence to suggest any terrorist attack may happen,” Harkins said, adding he is satisfied with the vulnerability assessments that have been done related to the event.
“We have a pretty good plan to address any issues that could come up,” he said. For example, the plan even addresses flying a drone over the country club (which is prohibited.)
Harkins’ biggest concern is not security at the golf course, but traffic.
How the extra cars and buses and pedestrians will get around and navigate detours will be a challenge and people should be careful, he said.
What about boat traffic? Will kayakers be able to float down the Conestoga River, which snakes its way through the country club property?
“The only rule is boaters are prohibited from entering onto the country club property,” Harkins said.
Manheim Township Fire Chief Rick Kane urged boaters to continue moving and to not congregate near the golf course.
Pennsylvania has hosted more USGA Championships than any other state, Deach said, so agencies here had previous plans to study. He urges spectators to study the materials on the USGA website, especially regarding what can and cannot be brought to the tournament.
Harkins and East Lampeter Township police Lt. Robin Weaver said their police coverage for the tournament will not affect regular assignments in their coverage areas. They did not say what they expect costs of their services to USGA will be.
East Lampeter officers will work on the course and on adjacent roads, Weaver said. He did not say how many officers would be involved.
“Our biggest concerns at this point are heat- and weather-related problems and, of course, traffic problems,” Weaver said. “We hope that county residents listen to traffic advisements and avoid the area if possible.”
Kane said Manheim Township Fire Rescue will have an apparatus and three crew members on each side of the river all seven days of the tournament to respond to any fires, wrecks or water rescues.
“All the staff time will be reimbursed by USGA,” he said, adding the bill will likely be “nearly $20,000.”
Kane said firefighters are more concerned with EMS issues with the tournament than fire-related ones.
“It’s the first week of July and there’s the potential for it to get pretty hot here,” he said. Kane urges spectators to follow recommendations in the USGA spectators guide to assure they stay hydrated.
Kane said general response times to EMS or fire calls shouldn’t be significantly affected in the area, since emergency vehicles can be allowed through road detours.
Any tips for motorists?
“Follow posted detours and, if you can, find an alternate route to keep away from the area,” Kane said. “Patience should be the word of the week.”
County Emergency Management Coordinator Randy Gockley said he is satisfied with the security planning that has been done at the local level.
“The county will offer any support that’s needed,” he said.