Super Bowl Official Details Regional Coordinated Communications Effort
Wednesday, March 19, 2014 | Comments

The New Jersey State Police (NJSP) and other public-safety officials in New Jersey and New York coordinated a successful weeklong regional communications effort around Super Bowl XLVIII, which included geographic areas far beyond where the actual football game was played.

Unlike the Denver Broncos’ lack of success during the Feb. 2 game, a 43 – 8 rout by the Seattle Seahawks, public-safety communications went well with only two system busies around 11 a.m. the day of the game.

NJSP was appointed the lead law enforcement agency for the Super Bowl, held at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. “Our mission statement was to ensure public safety was provided the highest level of interoperability and situational awareness possible,” said Capt. David Brady, chief of NJSP Communications Bureau. “We tried to use all the technology we have, and we tried to use all the best practices we could.”

The event brought together a large group of technical and operational experts who began planning two years before the game. The agencies made significant investments in infrastructure at the county, state and regionals levels.

The two football teams arrived a week before the game, and communications operations didn’t end until the teams left late on the afternoon of Feb. 3. Public-safety agencies had to secure the hotels where the teams stayed, in addition to National Football League (NFL) events in New York City, practice fields in Jersey City, MetLife Stadium and surrounding complex, as well as the transportation and mass transit corridors. The New York Police Department (NYPD) command center at 1 Police Plaza and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s joint operations intelligence center in Newark, N.J., were also highly engaged.

The various command centers were tied together with interoperability software from Mutualink and Haystax Technology. The state operates a 700/800 MHz Project 25 (P25) network supplied by Motorola Solutions. NJSP handed out as many as 600 to 700 cache radios for outside users to operate on its network. The system had about 1,500 users the day of the game.

“We had statewide talk groups, capacity and plenty of talk paths where needed,” Capt. Brady said. “Instead of a complex system of gateways, we threw people on our system. One goal was to minimize the use of patching and gateways — not that we didn’t use them, but we didn’t want many. In drills and exercises, we learned they can bring in unintended complexities. When patching different frequencies, you have problems with timing, and it creates squelch or negative voice quality.”

Operational channels between NJSP and the NYPD were used, and there was direct connectivity with NYPD’s command center. There were no single points of failure; every circuit had a backup.

“We drafted qualified people who knew their stuff, and broke it into groups and told people to stay in their lanes,” Brady said. “If I’m in charge of fire communications, that’s what I take care of.”

The agencies also used commercial carriers and established cameras and video surveillance networks. The agencies monitored cameras at the players’ hotels and the stadium. Commercial carriers brought in cellular on wheels (COWS) and other equipment to help the public-safety agencies, he said.

“It was one of those events everybody wants to participate in,” Brady said. “They realize it’s important to the region that things go well.”

The operational flow was somewhat harder than the technical side, he said. “Operationally, it went very well,” Brady said. “It took us a while to get our tempo up because we were a group of people working together who normally don’t. Using plain language, not codes, for example, and nailing down expectations. After two operational periods, we got into operational tempo. We shared as much information as we had.”

The public-safety communications hub at the stadium had the ability to reach out to each agency involved, including New Jersey Transit, which many fans used to travel to and from the game. New Jersey Transit had a consolette in the center next to NJSP and other agencies, including fire, medical, NYPD, and Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. In cases without a direct connection, NJSP had direct connectivity through a command-and-control channel.

“We used a lot of the best practices that we learned during Hurricane Sandy,” Brady said. “We get better and better at this.”

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