Protecting the Super Bowl - A Perfect Defense Is Mandatory

Incident management for major national events such as the Super Bowl requires the expenditure of millions of dollars, a great deal of preparation and planning time, and the utilization of advanced security technologies and incident-management skills.  Moreover, these technologies and incident-management processes must meet DHS (Department of Homeland Security) standards for incident management as outlined in the department’s National Incident Management System (NIMS).

When Tampa, Florida, hosted Super Bowl XXXV in January 2001, ticket holders could pass through security with a simple bag check and ticket scan.  Today, continuing the tighter security standards in place since the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 against the United States, major stadiums and indoor sports arenas throughout the country are considered to be prime terrorist targets in terms of the mass casualties as well as the catastrophic economic impact that are likely to result from a terrorist attack.  Along with the World Series and the Olympics, the Super Bowl is now ified by DHS as a National Special Security Event (NSSE).

Earlier this year – on 1 February 2009, to be more precise – Tampa was again the Super Bowl host, at Raymond James Stadium. This time around, though, it took two years of preparation and millions of dollars (contributed primarily by Tampa City and the National Football League) to cover the cost of security. Four days prior to the game, a final planning meeting was held that included over 100 law-enforcement officers and agents from more than a dozen organizations, including DHS, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Energy, and the U.S. Coast Guard. Those officers and agents represented only a fraction of the more than a thousand agents and officers actually on duty before and during the game itself.

The preparations for Super Bowl XLIII also included extensive background checks (carried out by DHS’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency) on the tens of thousands of applications submitted by people who typically work at the Super Bowls. A telephone number was provided to local citizens who noticed and wanted to report suspicious activity in the area.  The City of Tampa also used an emergency-preparedness response system (comprised of SAP Business Intelligence Software Crystal Reports® and Xcelsius®, and NC4 E Team™ and Situational Readiness™ software) to permit web-enabled access by responders and to facilitate, among other things: enhanced information sharing; the development of risk assessments and disaster modeling; the creation and use of a centralized command system; the production of daily planning schedules; the monitoring of all agencies and branches involved with the Super Bowl;  and the completion of various resource-management tasks. In addition, Kore Telematics and U.S. Fleet Tracking provided Tampa City with a system for tracking all security vehicles as well as those transporting VIPs to and from the Super Bowl.

Adherence to NIMS & HSPD-5 Also Required 

But employing a host of new security bells and whistles was not enough in itself.  The City of Tampa also had to meet the incident-management standards developed under NIMS. Here it is worth noting that it was on 28 February 2003 that President George W/ Bush issued Homeland Security Presidential Directive 5 (HSPD-5 – entitled “Management of Domestic Incidents”).  Under HSPD-5, the Secretary of Homeland Security is responsible for the coordination of federal preparations as well as the response to and recovery from terrorist attacks, major weather disasters, and other designated emergencies.

HSPD-5 also requires that the DHS Secretary put into place and administer the previously mentioned National Incident Management System – which, among other things, is responsible for the development and use of templates for government and private-sector emergency responders to follow in their collaborative efforts to prevent, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate the adverse (and potentially catastrophic) effects of major incidents.

Under NIMS, the standards for coordinated planning and training, including/training exercises, serve as the foundation for the interoperability and compatibility of resources before, during, and throughout an incident.  Using the templates mentioned above, response personnel from different jurisdictions work in close cooperation toentify, combine, discover, and manage incident-specific resources.

For interested emergency-management personnel, the DHS/FEMA Emergency Management Institute (EMI) offers, free of charge, a variety of courses on the basic and advanced concepts of Emergency and Disaster Management. (Additional information on those courses is available at; additional information on NIMS and its standards is available at

diana hopkins
Diana Hopkins

Diana Hopkins is the creator of the consulting firm “Solutions for Standards.” She is a 12-year veteran of AOAC INTERNATIONAL and former senior director of AOAC Standards Development. Most of her work since the 2001 terrorist attacks has focused on standards development in the fields of homeland security and emergency management. In addition to being an advocate of ethics and quality in standards development, Hopkins is also a certified first responder and a recognized expert in technical administration, governance, and process development and improvement.



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