Super Bowl was not the only game in town

Shadow Bowl 2003

Concerns about a terrorist attack during the Super Bowl last month prompted city and county officials in the San Diego area to forge partnerships with other organizations in the region to plan and test systems for monitoring the festivities and, if needed, for responding to any event.

For example, San Diego State University and the city police department organized a community readiness and medical response drill called the Shadow Bowl involving scores of technology, higher education and health organizations. The consortium created a staging area with $2 million worth of equipment just outside the stadium with medical teams in "hot standby" mode in the event of a disaster, said Bob Davis, a city police officer responsible for all communications and technical support for the event.

Elsewhere, the city and county, with help from the FBI, tested technology ranging from videoconferencing and backup communications to Web-based incident command systems.

Although the Shadow Bowl was described as a drill, the concern about an attack was real, officials say.

Qualcomm Stadium is about four air-minute miles from Tijuana International Airport. On a corner of the stadium's 160-acre parking lot sits a gasoline tank farm containing 15 million gallons for the county. Two miles up the road, 1.5 billion gallons of water splashes in one of the local reservoirs, while a river flows along the southern end of the 70,000-seat facility.

In addition, the port city, which hosts numerous military installations, welcomed hundreds of thousands of visitors.

"We saw the potential for a lot of easy targets around [the ] Super Bowl, the premier sporting event for this country for all intents and purposes," Davis said. "So we decided we needed to do something far and well beyond what the normal security measures would be."

That meant more than just the surveillance cameras, magnetometers and X-ray machines typically used at major events. Because the Super Bowl was not designated as a top security event, as were last winter's Olympics in Salt Lake City, the city took the lead, rather than the federal government.

Fortunately, cooperation and mutual aid among the city's, county's and surrounding jurisdictions' first responders have been good in the past, officials said. But this time, they went a step further, inviting help from area companies and universities, particularly with the Shadow Bowl.

As part of the drill, biological, chemical and radiological acoustic and air-quality sensors, along with water-monitoring devices, were placed around the area as an early warning system. Constant weather data was fed into plume modeling software to determine the direction of a potential toxic cloud and its affect on different parts of the city. The University of California, San Diego, provided thermal imaging cameras as well as car-counting technology on various roads.

The goal of the exercise, Davis said, was to provide feedback on "what works, what doesn't work, what breaks, what can be fixed on the fly and how can we make this all work," so during a real emergency, first responders could quickly react and limit casualties.

The Shadow Bowl was built on last year's Defense Department Domestic Emergency Response Information Services program, in which San Diego participated along with three other cities in a mock terrorist exercise. That effort "languished" following the successful exercise, Davis said.

"There was an effort here to show the federal government that San Diego has what it takes to be a leader in determining these types of things," Davis said, "in the sense that we have an infrastructure in place already [among] government, education and community businesses, where we have synergy here and we can bring things together that quickly."

In addition to the Shadow Bowl, a number of other public/private technology security partnerships flourished.

For the first time, San Diego first responders used a Web-based incident management system. The product, developed by E Team Inc., was used in New York City shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and at the Salt Lake City Olympics.

Deputy Chief D.P. Lee, the unified incident commander for the city's fire department, said San Diego had sought such an application for some time and settled on E Team's product because it was easy to set up, use and maintain.

Although information sharing has been good among first responder agencies, they have been unable to electronically share information, Lee said. The product provided a way to register and exchange real-time information that otherwise could be lost when recorded on paper or when people speak with one another.

The system was deployed in six operations centers throughout the region during the Super Bowl, with E Team hosting the Web site.

Accessed through landlines or wireless links, the system enabled public safety officials to view and track resource and personnel allocation throughout the area, communicate via instant messaging, view crowd and traffic information, access geographic information systems data and incorporate plume modeling.

Mark Fell, an E Team sales director, said users could even take digital photographs of an incident and immediately upload them into the system for viewing in near-real time. n

Mounting a good defense The Shadow Bowl, a cooperative effort among San Diego city and county agencies, higher education and private firms, set up multiple systems for detecting and responding to potential terrorist attacks during the Super Bowl. The drill included: n Biological, chemical and radiological acoustic and air-quality sensors, along with water-monitoring devices, placed around the area as an early warning system. n Constant weather data fed into plume-modeling software to determine the direction of a potential toxic cloud and its affect on different parts of the city. n Thermal imaging cameras and technology for monitoring traffic, provided by the University of California, San Diego.


  • Workforce
    Shutterstock image 1658927440 By Deliris masks in office coronavirus covid19

    White House orders federal contractors vaccinated by Dec. 8

    New COVID-19 guidance directs federal contractors and subcontractors to make sure their employees are vaccinated — the latest in a series of new vaccine requirements the White House has been rolling out in recent weeks.

  • FCW Perspectives
    remote workers (elenabsl/

    Post-pandemic IT leadership

    The rush to maximum telework did more than showcase the importance of IT -- it also forced them to rethink their own operations.

Stay Connected