Troy Harper, Vice President, Customer Success, OnSolve
Federal, state and local agencies spent months preparing for the 2019 Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta, game planning for the multitude of incidents that could threaten the safety and security of fans attending the game, as well as individuals and businesses that congregated in areas around the stadium. Terrorist attacks, active shooters, severe weather (yes, relevant even for an indoor stadium) and power disruptions are just some of the threats agencies prepared for, not to mention scores of unforeseen scenarios that challenge even the most experienced emergency management teams.
A key component of Super Bowl planning took place months before the big game, when Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) – in conjunction with FBI, TSA, Atlanta Police Department and other federal, state and local agencies – conducted a major emergency preparedness exercise at a MARTA station near the stadium. The exercise simulating a crisis scenario that could arise during the Super Bowl was replete with explosions, smoke and actors to create as realistic a setting as possible for first responders.
Extensive planning and multi-agency, multi-jurisdiction exercises like these are par for the course when it comes to large-scale sporting events, summer concerts and political conventions. The risk, however, is that agencies view large-scale simulated exercises as part of the planning process, and thus fail to develop a plan for before and after these simulated events. This oversight can cause chaos, confusion and undermine the public safety benefits they are designed to provide when a real event occurs.
There are several best practices to follow for large-scale multi-agency, multi-jurisdiction exercises to ensure smooth operations and communications before and after an event takes place.