‘Standing By’ At U.S. Open

A foreign yacht sailed up into Peconic Bay around the time of the U.S. Open 14 years ago — three years after the September 11 terrorist attacks — with illegal guns on board. It turned out to be an innocuous case of someone misunderstanding the gun laws in the United States. Now fast forward to the present day, when terrorist attacks have become more commonplace worldwide, upping the ante on security concerns for a national sporting event. Regardless of the scenario, local law enforcement and their public safety partners are prepared for next week’s golf championship.

“We need to prepare for anything and everything, and really that’s the theme of our preparation,” said Southampton Town Police Chief Steven Skrynecki in an interview Monday.

Over 30 federal, state, and local agencies, as well as the United States Golf Association’s security team, have spent the past year putting together a public safety plan that addresses a number of scenarios from terrorists, to medical emergencies such as someone getting hit with a golf ball, which happens frequently at golfing events, to a serious medical issue like a heart attack on the golf course. Authorities have also considered everything from the possibility that lightning will strike and cause a fire. Police are also ready for more traditional concerns — a suspicious person or package, disorderly patrons, or shoplifting at the merchandise tent.

“Then take that to another level where you have a person or persons who want to disrupt the event in the form of a terrorist type action. We are also prepared for that,” the chief said.

He declined to be more specific.

For medical emergencies, there will be a combination of paid responders and volunteers from the USGA and local agencies. There will be roughly 100 medical personnel on site daily throughout the week-long event, and there will be police and emergency response vehicles like the Medical Crisis Action Team, or MedCat, and ambulances located inside and outside the course at several stations to get sick people out of the course quickly for treatment.

“We will have medical personnel, some on bicycle, some ready to roll with an ambulance, if necessary, to meet just about any need. We even role-played the potential for any food-borne epidemics, just a potential. All of these things, we hope don’t occur, but we prepare for them in the event that they do,” Skrynecki said.

Southampton Town Police will also be out in full force at the event and going about their regular duties ensuring traffic keeps flowing outside the Shinnecock Golf Club, with officers stationed along County Road 39 up to 7-Eleven in Southampton.

“Between officers who are working regular shifts and duties and the officers who are working extra duty, we will be pretty much all hands on deck. Of course, I want to have a little bit of reserve in the event something significant happens outside of the U.S. Open, we have to be prepared to manage that, too,” he said.

If need be, the department could shift resources from the U.S. Open if the need arises, he added.

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