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Notre Dame evacuation plan in place, ready for kickoff

SOUTH BEND, Ind. – When 100,000 fans descend upon South Bend and the University of Notre Dame for the start of college football season, Saturday, there will be thousands of people looking out for their safety.

Whether they are tailgating in the parking lot or cheering the fighting Irish on from wooden benches around the intimate stadium, Game Day Operations Director Mike Seamon and his staff will be keeping an eye on things.

With possible thunderstorms coming in around game time, weather is a concern for the first game of the year. Like most college stadiums, Notre Dame’s concrete and masonry behemoth is open to the elements.

Seamon says this makes the football exciting to watch, and presents unique obstacles for his safety team to overcome. “You will start with 90 [degrees] and humid, and you’ll end in freezing snow and; you’ll see everything in-between. So we have to be prepared for everything,” said Seamon.

Thunderstorms present a dangerous situation, with the potential for lightning to strike. It would be worse if the stadium seating was made of aluminum, like what you find in other stadiums across the country.

But at Notre Dame, the seats are made of wood, miles and miles of worn wood, aged by the elements and the fans that make them their home several Saturday’s every fall. This is a small consolation, though; the benches are anchored to the cement risers by metal.

Should a massive, dangerous storm roll in during the game, an evacuation plan is in place to get spectators out of the stands and to safety quickly and efficiently. The plan is a simple one, and has been in place for longer than anyone can remember.

But that doesn’t mean it’s stayed the same. “Every year, like any good institution, we look at it. We always find ways to improve it; how would we make it better for everybody,” said Seamon. They also look to the NFL for best practices.

With a little luck, Notre Dame’s Fighting Irish won’t have to play Southern Florida in a torrential downpour, and the fans watching from the stands won’t get soaked to the bone. But, if they do, they can all take heart in knowing, if the weather gets too bad, they will be moved to a safe area within minutes.

A call to evacuate the stadium seating area will come from the University’s leadership. They’ll make their decision based on recommendations from Game Day Operations, Game Management, and security opinions.

Should an evacuation be required, spectators will be asked to follow the directions of the ushers and security officials in the stands. The teams, their coaches, and the university band are capable of exiting the stadium field via the entry ramp, and can be under cover within 90 seconds.

It would take a few minutes for spectators to clear the stands, and take shelter on the concourse level.

After the events at the Indiana State Fair, where a stage collapse killed several people, and other heightened security warnings, many students say they are glad to know the University has a plan, and is ready to enact it if needed.

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