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Volume 22 No. 19
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Comerica Park earns Safety Act designation

Editor’s note: This story is revised from the print edition.

Comerica Park last month became the second MLB venue to be awarded a federal Safety Act designation and certification, the highest level of protection available in a program run by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The federal recognition gives the Detroit Tigers, their parent company Ilitch Holdings and their Olympia Entertainment subsidiary protection from having to pay claims that might be filed by victims in the event of a terrorist attack at the ballpark.

The home of the Detroit Tigers earned the designation based on its security practices.
Officially known as the Support Anti-terrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies Act, the Safety Act encourages the creation, deployment and use of anti-terrorism technologies and practices. It was enacted in 2002 in response to the multibillion-dollar lawsuits filed after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that left companies concerned they would be sued if security equipment they made or were using failed to stop terrorists.

Before September 2001, terrorism was included in most commercial insurance policies in the United States. After the 9/11 attacks, the majority of insurers moved to exclude terrorism from their contracts. Federal lawmakers in 2002 passed the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act, which required all insurers to offer terrorism coverage to their policy holders. The Safety Act followed later that year.

Under the legislation, an attack must be certified as an “act of terrorism” by the federal government.

A Safety Act designation guarantees that the liability for the recipient is limited to the amount of liability insurance coverage already recommended by DHS. The higher designation and certification rating extends those benefits by calling for a court to dismiss lawsuits against entities whose products are DHS-certified. This protection, also referred to by DHS as the “government contractor defense,” can be overcome only if a lawsuit presents clear and convincing evidence that the company acted fraudulently or with willful misconduct when applying for Safety Act protections.

The Tigers’ successful application detailed its range of security practices, including physical and electronic game-day policies, documents that spell out evacuation plans, cyber security, and the hiring, vetting, training and management oversight of its employees and contractors. The award gives the team protection through October 2020 against any act of terrorism that may occur during any event at the ballpark.

Comerica Park becomes the third MLB venue to receive some level of Safety Act protection. The Queens Ballpark Co., a wholly owned subsidiary of the New York Mets, received designation recognition for Citi Field in July 2013. It also comes less than a month after the NBA and two months after MLB each received a level of Safety Act protection.

Akmal Ali, a principal at Washington, D.C.-based Catalyst Partners, helped the New York Yankees in 2012 become the first team to attain designation and certification for its ballpark. Ali also was hired to work on the NBA’s behalf with DHS to secure its award.

“A league-level award recognizes the league for developing effective security standards for its teams to follow,” Ali said. “Thereby, giving each team within that league a blueprint for implementing security at their respective arenas, setting each team up for their own eventual venue-specific Safety Act application.”

Ali said that when a team fills in its individual DHS application, much of it will be a repeat of what has been approved under the league’s application. But, he said, because each venue is different and each market has different potential risks, each team has to prove that it is implementing and carrying out not only league security standards effectively, but also that the club’s own policies are sound.

Ali said that stadium and arena applications are structured the same, although DHS now expects to see an open-air venue’s specific plan on dealing with drones.

MLB in July received a “developmental testing and evaluation” distinction, which provides similar liability protections as those provided by a full “designation” but with certain limitations and constraints. MLB has until August 2018 to fully test and evaluate its security plan before the protection expires. The league has been awarded Safety Act protection for all MLB-sponsored events surrounding each of the four most recent All-Star Games.

The NFL was the first sports organization to be recognized by DHS, receiving its first designation and certification in December 2008 and a five-year renewal in November 2013.

Safety Act approvals can be renewed beginning 24 months prior to the date of expiration.