In preparing for Super Bowl 51, Deputy CIO / Deputy Director, Public Safety of the City of Houston Tom Sorley and State of Texas SWIC Todd Early contacted the Department of Homeland Security Office of Emergency Communications for support and in September 2016 a scoping call was held to determine what support would be provided through the ICTAP.
It was determined that requirement # 1 would be to create an overarching communications plan / unified concept of operations plan for use between local, state federal and Non-Governmental Organization players all of whom would be operating at SB 51 and associated activities. Houston had hosted large events including a Super Bowl in the past and it was important to include lessons learned from those events. The second requirement was to socialize the plan to the public safety personnel. This effort would include creating a quick reference guide and organizational charts. Lafayette Group SMEs Kerr, Dzoba and Dato were assigned to the task.
To prepare the requested plans, the ICTAP team immediately started to collect data as it related to radio systems, frequencies / talkgroups, participants and events in preparation of the October meetings. Two communications planning meetings a month were scheduled by Sorley and the Houston team. One session included a working group of about 12 people, which would be the core communications group. The second meeting session averaged around 60 people which included communications representatives of many agencies, both public and private. ICTAP SMEs participated in both groups.
ICTAP SMEs were in constant contact with the Houston team making plan changes to reflect the ongoing changes that were being made by participating agencies. Added in to the mix of the overall communications planning was planning for use of band class 14 LTE devices and software for public safety situational awareness during the multiple days of events. SMEs attended and observed a functional LTE exercise sponsored by Harris County and the City of Houston and provided feedback and recommendations regarding the use of the LTE devices. SMEs assisted with coordination and de-confliction of frequency / talkgroup use, video down links and other resources prior to the event. A special pocket guide that resembled a Field Operations Guide (FOG) was developed by the SME team with support from the Lafayette Group office team. The guide contained a listing of frequencies and talkgroups by venues. It also listed key operation centers and venue phone numbers. The guide was mainly used by public safety personnel in the field. The team also developed multiple detailed charts with organizational information as is related to venues, frequencies and agencies.
SMEs stayed in close contact and “on-call” during the event for last minute changes and any other assistance that may have been needed. Operationally the communications planning and “game day” execution was a success which was summed up in a text received by one of the SMEs during halftime from a Houston COML, “…People are staying to our plan. This is a first. I appreciate your help through this process.”