So it's superbowl time. I'm watching for the commercials and the half time act but I know we have the Denver Broncos with Payton Manning are up against the Panthers and Cam Newton. 
 The super bowl is not all just fun and games. Or, in fact, it is fun and games and to make it about the fun and the game, there is a huge security apparatus behind a big event like what's occurring in Santa Clara this weekend. 
So how does this work? When a stadium gets the super bowl, how are they thinking about security to protect everyone there, and to protect a high profile event that's being televised live that everyone is watching?
Well first, let me set the record straight, there's no way to have a perfectly safe super bowl. The reality is that perfect security is simply not attainable at an event like this, but refusing to hold major sporting events is not, nor should it be an option. So what we do when we think about these big events is we don't aim for perfect security, we aim for perfect planning. Something misunderstood and overlooked by the public.
I've been involved with major planning for security for sporting events, and I presently sit on the board of the International Center for Sports Security, which thinks about these issues, and these big high profile events like the Olympics and the world cup, so I recognize the challenges confronting first responders.
These first responders will be on high alert, there's no question about that. But what does that actually mean? Basically there are three principles that guide this kind of planning. The first is not what you would think about. It's essentially about flow. The primary goal for any major event planner, is not simply to focus on security, but to integrate security planning with the primary reason for any gathering-- enjoyment. 
At some stage, with too much security, the event loses its purpose. So while many think that security planning is static and aggressive, for major events like the super bowl the animating theme is actually flow: how do you move people fast? How do you move them to different places? In what ways can you ensure that people are still having fun?
One key point is simply to not rely solely on the security apparatus. Instead, the success of planning to support flow actually requires engagement by those in attendance. Bans on certain kinds of big bags etc. Security apparatuses do get what the purpose of the event is, and tries to incorporate and absorb security into the reason why people are there and the reason why we're all watching.
The second challenge is coordination. While many people think about some sort of military chain of command, most in the security field talk about and support a notion of unity of effort. This is no easy feat. With so many agencies with different levels of government involved.
At the super bowl, officials are trying to integrate the abilities of every agency from the transportation security agency of more local efforts-- like California's public health agencies or the Santa Clara local police. Throw in the national guard, the NFL's and each team's security, traditional policing, and more than a few drunk spectators and the coordination challenges become that much clearer. 
The Federal government has designated the super bowl what's called a National Special Security Event-- we call an NSSE which helps provide order and a single point of contact for all federal agencies involved with this effort. These agencies have been working together and training together with local and state counterparts to insure that each knows what the other is doing and is prepared to respond should the need arise.
That's where we get to understanding what risk is about. We're not going to get the risk to zero, but we can get it pretty low for an event like the super bowl. And while I hate to think of it this way, there is a parallel planning effort to make sure that if something does go wrong, its impact will be minimal. It will be reduced so that you save lives. You make sure there isn't mass hysteria. 
As we all saw in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings, the response of public safety agencies can go along way toward reassuring crowds that they are protected and safe. This is not only true for bombs, but also for cases like the black out blow in New Orleans, when half of the stadium lost electricity during the super bowl two years. The electrical grid had been built in such a way that if part of the super dome went dark, a separate generator kicked in. A stadium in total blackness signifies something much worse than a stadium half lit. 
It is these fail safe precautions that will reduce panic, fear, and even harm to event goers.  In other words, if a bad thing happens we need to know how we can limit failures. 
Ultimately all these means that while the security apparatus deployed on Sunday may seem overwhelming or even intimidating, it is all part of the efforts to ensure that regardless of the risk, the big game will balance the risk with the entertainment we have all been waiting for.