It is unlike other trade shows, unlike other conferences, in fact, it is unlike anything else. As the sun beat down from the Florida sky into the FoxFury booth, gun shots rang out and echoed against the massive earth berms that surrounded the complex. Conversations were halted every few moments as bursts of gunfire and yelling shattered the air.
No, it wasn’t an attack. It was the 34th annual SWAT Roundup competition held each year to allow SWAT teams from around the world to compete for the glorious title of “Best SWAT Team In The World”.
A gladiators’ paradise as the sun glinted off a sea of weapons and helmets and despite the noise, one could hear the warriors breathing in unison as they entered the arena…
In early November, teams traveled Central Florida to compete from as far away as Jamaica, Hungary, St. Maarten, and Brazil, just to see who is among the top SWAT teams in the world. 60 teams to be exact. The competition consists of five specialized events which double as large scale training activities and is held on the grounds of what I was told was part of an old Naval Base located outside of Orlando.
The pathways that meandered across the massive complex were packed with attendees, most of which are law enforcement officers from around the country that have traveled to either cheer on their favorite team or members of their own departments. The toys were also a huge draw.
From armored vehicles to ballistic vests, from guns to apparel, from helmets to our own FoxFury lights, there was no lack of gear for attendees and teams to look at and purchase.
The conversations were of civil unrest, terrorism and sadly, the deaths of so many officers this year around the country. While spirits were high throughout the games, there was an underlying somber tone to conversations that took place in the booths as tactical officers and medics discussed the need for better equipment, better solutions and “the advantage” that could be needed at a moments notice.
“These would not have made sense to me three years ago,” one officer remarked while looking at the FoxFury Nomad 360. “Our calls have changed, the challenges aren’t just harder, they are longer. This light will really run that long?”
The comments were similar when it came to the FoxFury Shield lights on display in our booth. Teams and departments that had invested little in riot control gear before were suddenly drawn to the police shield in our booth. Times are definitely changing and you could see it all over the show.
One big difference at the competition over previous years was the increased security. Large barricades zig-zagged their way across the entrance driveways and over 60 law enforcement officers guarded the entry into the complex which made for difficult parking and ignited a lot of conversations.
“We obviously have had to increase security because of the type of event this is,” explained Katina Madianos-Fiore. Madianos-Fiore is the Program Coordinator for the National tactical Officers Association (NTOA) and was working the event office. “The increased security allows for the officers attending to just concentrate and enjoy the event without worrying about everything happening outside.”
When asked as to the number of attendees at the event, Madianos-Fiore said there was no way of knowing because attendees do not need to register to attend, but rather just show their law enforcement identification at the gate. She estimated several thousand while another one of the event volunteers offered up that the number could be as high as 6000.
6000 did not seem like too much of a stretch when you looked out over the massive competition field surround by over a thousand people as teams ran, crawled, climbed, fought and shot their way through the obstacles of each event. It was a loud, tough and adrenalized group of competitors that took to the field every day. The spirit of brotherhood was almost overwhelming.
Ultimately, the event proved to not just be a competition but rather a gathering of the best of the best, the bravest of the bravest, and the companies like FoxFury that believe in the thin blue line and make the products that help keep them alive in a rapidly changing world.
By Eddy Weiss
C4L & Associates
Eddy Weiss is a nationally renowned expert in the fields of Emergency Management, Disaster Preparedness, Terrorism, BIO Terrorism, and all types and phases of disasters. With over 180 certifications to his credit from prestigious organizations such as FEMA, John's Hopkins, Yale University School of Medicine, and the National Emergency Response & Rescue Training Center (NERRIC), Eddy is the leading expert in Emergency Preparedness and is able to speak on a wide array of subject matters involving crisis and emergency responses.