Super Bowl horses lead
NYPD on horseback during Super Bowl weekend

Super Bowl Security: Guarding America’s Biggest Game

More than 35 agencies worked as one to make sure America’s Game Day -- Super Bowl Sunday -- was terror free!

The Super Bowl (and its offshoot events) one of the most difficult venues to protect. In early 2014, the Super Bowl footprint was extensive, as it covered locations in two states: New York, and New Jersey. Add to this the transportation infrastructure necessary to get teams, talent, fans and supporters to and from the venues using planes, trains, boats, buses and cars. In short, this Super bowl covered one of the largest areas in history.

Super Bowl skyline

OAM Helicopter Helps Patrol NJ-NY Skies prior to Super Bowl XLVIII

Major Event Protection

To plan effectively, a formal planning model is normally used.

Pre-Event Planning: This usually begins 12 to 18 months before the event. The lead agency receives authorization to coordinate the event with established mission parameters. They then reach out and collaborate with partners to help secure the event, meeting regularly with team members and partners and developing a comprehensive plan. This planning should encompass direct, indirect and contingency effects from the major event. Collateral issues from a major event, from transportation to housing to medical, must also be part of the event planning process.

Managing Security During The Event: Communication is key. Once a communication plan is in place, access control becomes the focus with trained personnel who understand the parameters and are ready to handle any contingencies that arise.

Post-Event Activities: The final phase, which begins when the event is over, includes conducting a comprehensive review of successes, lessons learned and areas needing improvement. It also involves accounting for all equipment and resources used.

To plan effectively, a formal planning model is normally used. One of the first steps is to identify and have an executive team that encompasses the command-level personnel from all partners involved in securing the event. Then, once you have the right decision-makers together, it’s time to dive into the details.

Super Bowl MetLife

Police outside of MetLife Stadium during Super Bowl weekend

SEAR Grading

Although major events held throughout the country are typically the purview of local government agency coordination, with the establishment of National Special Security Events (NSSE) and the creation of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), major events now receive some federal support, including the Super Bowl.

The DHS is tasked with evaluating every major event through the lens of national security implications, and the Super bowl tends to hit all the marks. This is a high-profile event with lots of media coverage and attended by thousands of people, making it a ripe target for would-be terrorists. Once that information is collated, the DHS evaluates it under a rating system called the Special Event Assessment Rating (SEAR).

The 2014 Super bowl was the first modern super bowl to be held in a cold-weather stadium without a dome. Since New York and New Jersey co-hosted the Super Bowl, pre-game events took place in both states. This meant that the security plan had to encompass all events before, during and after the game. The official kickoff of Super Bowl week occurred with a concert at Liberty State Park in Jersey City, New Jersey, followed by Macy’s fireworks. Media Day also took place at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.

In Manhattan, Broadway from 34th to 47th Streets, which encompasses Times Square, was transformed into Super Bowl Boulevard, allowing the public to participate in various NFL-related activities. That area alone saw an estimated 400,000 people.

Super Bowl police

Director New York Field Operations Robert Perez visits the NII staging area outside MetLife Stadium.

The 2014 Super bowl was the first modern super bowl to be held in a cold-weather stadium without a dome. Since New York and New Jersey co-hosted the Super Bowl, pre-game events took place in both states. This meant that the security plan had to encompass all events before, during and after the game. The official kickoff of Super Bowl week occurred with a concert at Liberty State Park in Jersey City, New Jersey, followed by Macy’s fireworks. Media Day also took place at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.

In Manhattan, Broadway from 34th to 47th Streets, which encompasses Times Square, was transformed into Super Bowl Boulevard, allowing the public to participate in various NFL-related activities. That area alone saw an estimated 400,000 people.

 

Super Bowl aerial

An aerial shot during Super Bowl weekend

Super Sentinels

The Super Bowl attracts many willing partners who love the game and also have an interest in ensuring its safe execution. This partnership crosses all lines and involves public and private entities and every facet of government organization necessary for execution of the security plan. In this case, the NFL was the primary private partner and the State of New Jersey was the largest public partner. The DHS supported this partnership with resources necessary for the security plan.

The DHS appoints a federal coordinator, who, for the 2013 Super Bowl, was Andrew McLees, the special agent in charge of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations-Newark. There was also a deputy federal coordinator, James Mottola, the special agent in charge of the U.S. Secret Service’s Newark field office. These individuals liaised with state officials and coordinated additional resources that were needed to ensure a solid job was done.

“The Super Bowl attracts many willing partners who love the game and also have an interest in ensuring its safe execution.”

While the State of New Jersey—via the New Jersey State Police and Governor’s Office—was the primary state coordinator for the Meadowlands area, DHS brought the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) teams, made up of federal air marshals, surface and aviation transportation security inspectors, behavioral detection officers, transportation security officers and canine teams, to help secure transit to and from the stadium.

Super Bowl Coast Guard

The U.S. Coast Guard on Super Bowl weekend

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers used non-intrusive inspection equipment to scan the cargo entering the stadium for contraband, such as narcotics, weapons and explosives. The CBP Office of Air and Marine (OAM) helped enforce the air space security, whose zone was established by the FAA. The Coast Guard provided maritime security. In addition, investigative ops by CBP and ICE targeted counterfeit vendors and local merchants of game-related sportswear.

Crossing over into New York City via the mayor’s office, the NYPD and FDNY formed the nucleus of coordination for the venues in and around Manhattan.

The NYPD deployed hundreds of extra uniformed and plainclothes police officers to the area and used bomb-sniffing dogs, portable radiation detectors and a vast network of surveillance cameras to detect any signs of trouble. In addition to the DHS, 13 other federal offices assisted.

Super Bowl helicopter

OAM Helicopter Helps Patrol over MetLife Stadium prior to Super Bowl XLVIII

Game Day

Once the Super bowl was declared a Level One SEAR event, the State of New Jersey constructed a 2.5-mile cordon of steel fencing to secure the stadium perimeter. From that point forward, a credentialing protocol was initiated, and no one could get into or out of the stadium without that credential.

“A 24-hour FBI command center was established to monitor the latest counterterrorism intelligence,” said Aaron Ford, head of the FBI’s Newark office.

Helicopters were launched and enforced a temporary no-fly zone around New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium on Super Bowl Sunday, with F-16s based in Atlantic City ready to be scrambled.

“This is a high-profile event with lots of media coverage and attended by thousands of people, making it a ripe target for would-be terrorists.”

Bomb-sniffing dogs swept the entire stadium and were used to patrol the trains and buses that brought the approximate 30,000 of the 80,000-plus spectators.

“Only people who had a valid Super Bowl ticket were allowed to pass through the security checkpoint and board a train,” said John Durkin, special agent in charge of the TSA Newark field office.

Officials estimated that between 12,000 and 15,000 passengers rode the train between the Secaucus station and the stadium. Durkin said agents were looking “for anything that could negatively affect the safety of New Jersey Transit passengers.”

Once kickoff occurred, over 5,000 law enforcement officers remained on hand to ensure the public was safe and that the game remained super for all to see.

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