Managing one large-scale special event can be a public safety challenge for any jurisdiction. However, when multiple events and hundreds of thousands of people converge in one area, communications between public safety officials is critical. Using the Homeland Security Information Network, officials in the greater Phoenix area kept the lines of communication open.
From New Year’s Eve through 2 February 2015, the greater Phoenix, Arizona, area hosted four major sporting events and welcomed almost 700,000 people to the region. From the Vizio® Fiesta Bowl to the NFL Pro Bowl, the Waste Management® Phoenix Open, and Super Bowl XLIX, it was no easy task to coordinate public safety activities across multiple cities for such an extended period of time. More than 100 different organizations and 750 users relied on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Homeland Security Information Network (HSIN) to support situational awareness and coordinate their activities from the early days of planning to the final tee off and touchdown.
Planning & Executing a Game Plan
Planning for these events began more than a year earlier during Super Bowl XLVIII in New Jersey. “I got to see how HSIN helped support situational awareness,” said DHS Intelligence and Analysis Southwest Regional Director Anthony Frangipane, “but I also saw more opportunities to use HSIN as a comprehensive planning tool.”
When planning efforts intensified last spring, the partnering agencies chose HSIN as their primary information sharing and collaboration tool. Event coordinators assembled a core planning team supported by 24 resource working groups that focused on topics such as law enforcement, logistics, public affairs, intelligence, and, of course, emergency management. They used HSIN to coordinate activities within and among the groups to ensure proper support was provided to each event.
“HSIN streamlined everything so everyone had access to the same materials and resources no matter their location. We preloaded as much information as we could so that it would be readily available when it was needed,” said Officer Jim Lawler with the Phoenix Police Department. “As new events were scheduled in the various cities, they were added to a consolidated venue matrix. At any time, HSIN made it possible to easily pull up the date, time, and location of a particular event. We were even able to add details such as estimated attendance so that the individual working groups could see how an event affected their activities and what level of resources would be needed to support it.”
Integrating Federal Partners
Due to the scale of the events, broad federal support was provided to state and local agencies to help handle the influx of people and monitor activities. DHS assigned Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent in Charge Matthew Allen as the federal coordinator for the Phoenix events.
“My role was to make sure the local agencies had the tools they needed,” said Allen. “Through HSIN, I was able to keep an eye on the entire planning process. When a need wasentified, I worked with federal resources so they could provide the necessary support.”
If a utility company needed support from the Department of Energy, Allen was there to coordinate. When local explosive ordnance disposal teams recognized a need for additional resources to respond to unattended bags or suspicious packages, he worked with federal agencies in the area to provide assistance. “HSIN was a really great collaboration tool to share information and raise awareness across agencies,” explained Allen.
Getting Ready for Kick Off
As the final events drew nearer, five operations centers were set up to monitor activities in real time. Part of the effort included understanding how unrelated incidents could affect the various events.
“I looked at how incident tracking was handled in recent years as part of the Phoenix Open and used their model,” said Sgt. Anthony Jones with the Phoenix Police Department’s Homeland Defense Bureau and the Arizona Counter Terrorism Information Center. “We tracked everything and posted it on HSIN as part of overall situational awareness efforts so that each sector could evaluate whether any particular incident could impact their activities.”
Maintaining Situational Awareness
During the 10 busiest days of event activities, Jones had people in the multiagency coordination center listening to radios and posting the information to HSIN in real time to maintain comprehensive situational awareness.
“During a major event, a lot of energy is spent trying to find out what is happening where,” said Jones. “Using HSIN, we were able to capture and post it as it happened so no one had to seek it out.”
This information, as well as data pulled from the event planning matrix, was highlighted on a scrolling event tracker in all five operations centers so every agency involved had access to the same information to support decision making in their sectors.
Establishing Positive Public Affairs
Before and during the events in Phoenix, many local and national media outlets reported on the various public safety aspects of supporting so many large-scale, concurrent events. Using HSIN as a virtual joint information center, 150 public information officers from across the region used HSIN to share talking points, press releases, social media postings, and more.
“HSIN acted as a one-stop-shop for us,” said Sgt. Trent Crump with the Phoenix Police Department Media Relations office. “We were able to access and share information in a timely fashion and the alerts function made it possible for us to keep abreast of current developments even when we were away from our computers.”
As media inquiries came in, they were logged, assigned, and tracked in HSIN. As a result, it was easy to see if the same questions were being asked of different agencies and a coordinated response could be provided. “HSIN was one of the most valuable and helpful elements as we put things together for the Super Bowl,” said Crump.
Scoring a Win for Everyone
Whether fans were headed to Phoenix for football or golf, public safety officials across the “Valley” were able to handle the influx of people and coordinate their efforts. “In the end, everything went beautifully,” said Lt. Jeff Trillo with the Scottsdale Police Department. “With HSIN, we were able to collaborate and provide each event with the attention it deserved. The fans came to town to have a good time and everything went fantastic!”
With Super Bowl XLIX successfully in the books, the HSIN team is already moving forward with support efforts for Super Bowl 50 next year in the San Francisco Bay, California, area! Contact HSIN Outreach with questions or for more information on how HSIN can be used to support local public safety or emergency management operations.
Parts of this article were originally published in The HSIN Advocate, February 2015, and is reprinted with permission.
Janusz Wasiolek is the outreach and mission advocate manager for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Homeland Security Information Network. He oversees a team of 18 mission advocates who work with stakeholders to connect organizations across the nation. Previously, he supported the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Preparedness Assessment Division, developing numerous reports on emergency readiness and preparedness. He is a Certified Emergency Manager, a former paramedic, and holds an M.S. in Engineering Management and Systems Engineering.