Harris County’s public safety broadband network was on display once again during Super Bowl week in Houston, providing first responders with dedicated communications and fast information sharing.
Many visitors arrived in downtown Houston early to participate in the week-long celebration, which included both the NFL Experience in the George R. Brown Convention Center, and Super Bowl Live in the adjacent Discovery Green Park. In past Super Bowls, these events have brought close to a million visitors over the course of the week. The night before the big game in Houston, Super Bowl Live reached a capacity crowd of around 135,000 visitors by 7:00 PM.
Many agencies are familiar with the public safety challenges that inevitably come with large-scale special events like these, and communication is often one of the top concerns. That’s why Harris County Central Technology Services spent nearly a year working closely with the City of Houston and other agencies to support Super Bowl 51 with their public safety LTE network.
Harris County deployed over 200 dedicated public safety broadband handheld devices for first responders and worked hard to expand their network coverage footprint. That included installing several new tower sites, a small cell inside NRG Stadium, and working with the George R. Brown Convention Center to have the Band 14 network included in their new distributed antenna system.
To prepare for Super Bowl, the county staff used parades, races, and Houston Texans regular season home games as practice deployments. Many of the processes used during Super Bowl week were developed by the first responders working these events.
The team chose the application Moxtra to securely share messages, images, and video, in both private and team chat groups. STING, a suite of mobile and web applications designed for public safety, was used as a map tool that made it easier for responders to locate one another. Neon Personnel Tracker was used to provide indoor location services with 3D visualization at NRG Stadium. Houston Fire Department also used Mobile Indicator for field reporting and GoCoder for live video streaming from the field.
Harris County also applied many of the lessons they learned deploying Public Safety Broadband at the 2016 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, including:
- Increasing their number of support staff for the event
- Familiarizing their users with the devices and applications well in advance of game day
- Conducting extensive walk and drive tests to verify coverage in the operations area
(In case you missed it, the full after action report from the Rodeo is available here.)
By most accounts, Harris County’s efforts preparing for Super Bowl week paid off. Communication was a big success, and several officers remarked that the devices and applications that they used were great for sharing information and maintaining situational awareness.
There were some small protests which officers could record and immediately share with the command center. During one incident in particular, a photo of a suspicious driver observed circling around downtown was quickly reported and shared among officers, ultimately leading to his arrest.
These minor incidents aside, the event week went smoothly and public safety broadband proved its value once again. As Harris County continues to expand its network, more first responders will get to experience the benefits of this network firsthand.