A bicyclist rides past spectators and a police officer on Kuakini Highway during the 2012 Ironman World Championship. ( Erin Miller/West Hawaii Today)
Spectators sit on the rock wall fronting Kailua Bay and watch swimmers complete the first portion of the 2012 Ironman World Championship. (Erin Miller/West Hawaii Today)
Security will be a little tighter at this year’s Ironman World Championship.
Race Director Diana Bertsch said the event has always had security, coordinated with a variety of county, state and federal agencies. This year, race officials are prohibiting backpacks in credentialed areas and asking spectators to leave their bags at home, the hotel or in the car.
“People may see subtle changes,” Bertsch said. “Our biggest priority is, we have to be safe. We want everybody to have a good time.”
She acknowledged that the increased safety protocols are in part a result of the Boston Marathon bombing earlier this year, which killed three people and injured several hundred more. That race is run on a course open to the public, as is much of the Ironman marathon course.
Two bombers allegedly used a pressure cooker bomb hidden in a backpack to cause the explosion.
Ironman officials are asking members of the public to watch for suspicious or unusual behavior, using the phrase “If you see something, say something,” Bertsch said.
Ironman Deputy Public Safety Director Stacey Aguiar said her department coordinates year-round with various law enforcement agencies.
“What we want the public to know is to be alert, be aware and be informed,” she said. “It’s not the professionals who are going to see something. It’s our spectators. They know this event front and back.”
Two fliers will provide information to spectators on what to watch out for and how to contact race officials.
One flier calls attention to unusual or suspicious unattended packages, devices or baggage in public areas, particularly items left in an out-of-the-way location not generally visible to the public, items with threatening notes attached, anything with visible wires, batteries, a clock or timer, bottles, tanks or bags attached, items abandoned by someone quickly leaving the area or a Thermos, a propane canister, a 2-liter soft drink container, a fire extinguisher or a piece of pipe. Other signs that may indicate a suspicious item include items leaking an odor, mist or oily liquid or something filled with an unusually colored liquid or strange objects.
“Not all lost-and-found and unattended items are suspicious packages, devices or baggage,” the flier said. “Items left in conspicuous areas such as on seats, in a restroom, next to a vending machine, or on a curb are possibly forgotten items.”
Public safety officials warn against using a radio or cellphone near an item if it is suspected to be an explosive device. Anyone finding a suspicious device, bag or package should provide his own name, a location of the item and a description of the item and be ready to provide details to police or event security about the item.
To report a suspicious item, contact the Ironman Race Operations Center at 334-3410.
Officials didn’t make the fliers “to alarm people,” Bertsch said. “It’s just to make us all aware. Because of Boston, people are looking at things differently.”
Anyone who is signed up for Hawaii Police Department or Civil Defense alerts via the Nixle text messaging and email system can add Ironman alerts, as well, Aguiar said. To do so, log into the Nixle account, choose the option to manage the account and select Ironman, she said. In the case of an emergency event, announcements will be sent via the Nixle system.