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Crowd control, traffic main security issues at Comic-Con

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When it comes to large annual events in San Diego there is none that compare to the Hulk-like amount of crowds Comic-Con International attracts.

Starting Thursday, about 125,000 people from all continents will dress up as Star Wars characters or the latest 1980s cartoon remake for the silver screen (this year it will be "G.I. Joe") and make their way to the San Diego Convention Center to catch a glimpse of the handful of never-before-seen movie trailers, like James Cameron’s new 3-D flick "Avatar"; purchase exclusive toys; and of course read up on the latest comic books.

But with great crowds comes great responsibility. And with this in mind, security and safety are the No. 1 priorities for Comic Con officials.

Once again the San Diego Police Department, San Diego Fire-Rescue Department and several security companies will be out in full force to ensure the 40th annual Comic-Con will be an enjoyable and memorable experience for its record number of aficionados attending the four-day extravaganza.

Due to security issues, not every detail could be released, but according to Convention Center General Manager Brad Gessner and Convention Center Assistant VP of Security Josh Layne, there will be over 500 security workers on scene in addition to numerous police officers, the fire marshal, paramedics and the convention center’s own security staff.

“The security plan is a well-coordinated one that takes a few months ahead of time to map out,” said Gessner. “For any show at the Convention Center a plan must be submitted to us and all parties work together to make sure the event goes as scheduled.”

The biggest issues that comes up is crowd control inside the Convention Center and traffic management when getting in and out of Comic-Con.

Elite Show Services Inc. will be the main body of security roaming the convention center lobby and exhibit hall. GMI Integrated Facility Solutions will be handling the crowd and line control.

The police department will be patrolling the Convention Center as well and will be outside Comic-Con helping navigate traffic coming in, out and around the Center and the Gaslamp Quarter.

“We always tell visitors to familiarize yourself with the Gaslamp and Convention Center area before heading down (to Comic-Con),” said Monica Munoz, San Diego Police Department spokesperson.

For those that like to dress up to the event, there will be check points inside the convention center to make sure toy weapons are clearly tagged so that there is no confusion.

Munoz said that people should use common sense and their best judgment in and around downtown if they have any type of toys or artifacts that looks like a weapon, which could bring attention to police.

It is worth noting that you can walk around San Diego with a costume on that covers your head, but Munoz said some places -- like government offices -- will not let you inside their establishment.

Comic-Con is the hiring party for all security, but could not give a dollar amount for security cost.

Due to policy, Munoz could not give out the number of police officers slated to work Comic-Con or how much the city would get for their services, but did say Comic-Con takes into consideration the police departments recommendations of how many police officers to staff based on the size of the event.

For those planning to attend the event, organizers say the biggest tip they can give them is to “be mindful of their surroundings,” said David Glanzer, director of marketing and public relations.

Planning ahead seems to be the key to avoid superhero-type problems.

The event recommends that attendees should expect crowded areas and long lines, and they should be patient. They should also stay hydrated and eat something to avoid illness, as has been the case in previous years.

Dressing accordingly with comfortable walking shoes and cool clothes is also suggested along with assigning a meeting spot at the Convention Center if you are going in a group.

Comic-Con is sold out, so it is highly recommended that if you do not have a pass that you should avoid the Convention Center area.

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