Houston event organizers rethink security plans


by Shern-Min Chow / KHOU 11 NEWS


Posted on April 15, 2013 at 10:17 PM

HOUSTON -- In the wake of the Boston Marathon explosions, Houston is reviewing security measures for several major events.

Security has probably never been a bigger concern for events like the Houston international Festival and the BP MS 150 that are expected to draw huge crowds this weekend.

Jennifer Noonan was running at Memorial Park, when KHOU 11 News spoke with her about the tragic events at Monday’s Boston Marathon.

“I had a twin sister that ran it today,” Noonan said.

Noonan’s twin sister, Colleen Dabler, finished the Boston Marathon in 3 hours and 17 minutes. It was a personal best and her time may have saved her life.

“She crossed the finish line before the explosions went off,” said Noonan.

The explosions occurred about four hours into the race.

Back in the Bayou City, more than 25,000 people took part in the 2013 Chevron Houston Marathon.

Local event organizers study security, by studying other big races.

“We have a team up there now,” said Houston Marathon Executive Director Wade Morehead of the committee that was in Boston on Monday. “We work closely…Boston is one of the large running events in the world.”

The four-person team is safe. A quick email was the only communication.

“Everything was on lockdown,” explained Morehead. “No one had access to phones.”

In Houston, Chevron Marathon organizers met just hours after the Boston explosions with the Houston Fire Department and officials with the Department of Homeland Security.

At this year’s race in January, the crowd was estimated at a 250,000 people.

The race organizers always answer key questions: Where are all of their volunteers are? At what time will the majority of runners be at the finish line? Where are the highest concentration of spectators?

This coming weekend is the BP MS 150. The race attracts 13,000 riders and 3,000 volunteers with unique security concerns because the race begins in Houston and ends in Austin.

“It's a two-day event through 180 miles and we have over 30 sites that we control or manage,” said MS Regional Executive Vice President Mark Neagli.

The MS 150 has already met with state and federal agencies to review security issues. It begins Saturday morning.

Security at the upcoming Houston iFest, which begins Friday, is manned by both the Houston Police Department and private security.

While most Americans don't think about bombs at races or festivals, event organizers say they have had crisis management plans in place long before the explosions at the Boston Marathon.