HARRIS COUNTY A MAJOR PLAYER DURING SUPER BOWL 51
The biggest single game in American sports, Super Bowl 51, was played at Harris County’s NRG Stadium on Sunday, February 5, 2017, bringing a multitude of visitors, global media attention and a huge economic impact to the region. The New England Patriots defeated the Atlanta Falcons 34-28 in the first Super Bowl ever to go into overtime.
Harris County’s NRG Stadium has a seating capacity of 72,500 and is home to the Houston Texans, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, the Texas Bowl and many other events. The stadium served as the host facility for Super Bowl 38 in 2004.
The Harris County Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Management (HCOHSEM) worked for more than a year with the National Football League (NFL), the Houston Super Bowl Host Committee, the City of Houston, and many other partners to plan and prepare for the events leading up to the big game. HCOHSEM also participated in the coordination of plans as well as numerous trainings and exercises throughout 2016.
Harris County activated its Emergency Operation (EOC) at Level 1 (High Readiness) for 10 days in advance of Super Bowl 51. During this period, more than 40 local, state and federal partners monitored the festivities to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for the hundreds of thousands of visitors that flocked to the area. An estimated 1.3 million people attended Super Bowl Live and the NFL Experience during the 10-day period.
Harris County’s Regional Joint Information Center (JIC) was also activated in support of traffic and transportation public information. Core partners included METRO, the Texas Department of Public Safety, Houston TranStar, multiple Harris County departments, the City of Houston Office of Administrative and Regulatory Affairs and Department of Public Works.
TRAFFIC AND TRANSPORTATION PUBLIC COMMUNICATIONS
The Traffic and Transportation Committee Communications Work Group was created a year prior to Super Bowl 51 to coordinate communication planning efforts on matters relating to traffic and transportation management, as well as associated public safety issues at NRG Park.
The committee, mostly composed of emergency management and transportation partners, worked closely with the Houston Super Bowl Host Committee, the City of Houston, and law enforcement to make sure that accurate, timely and actionable information was provided to the public and the media. HCOHSEM communications staff and core transportation public information officers also staffed the Regional JIC during the 10-day activation period.
In early December, the Houston Super Bowl Host Committee unveiled a transportation guide – part of its #KnowBeforeYouGo social media campaign – which detailed options for getting around downtown and areas surrounding NRG Stadium. A Super Bowl app also allowed users to reserve and pay for parking in advance. Public transportation was heavily promoted with the goal of alleviating congestion in downtown Houston, where roughly 150,000 people travel to work every day.
REGIONAL JOINT INFORMATION CENTER
As with other major events, the local media partnered well with the Regional JIC for Super Bowl 51. During the planning stage, HCOHSEM hosted a meeting with media to provide Regional JIC details and coordinate any requests ahead of Super Bowl 51.
During the 10-day activation, the Regional JIC was the one-stop shop for traffic, transportation and some security related questions. The goal was to craft messages that were vetted by all agencies involved and have everyone on the same page. Public information officers answered questions and coordinated media requests for local and national media. They were also actively engaged with social media, providing news, updates and safety tips.
The Regional JIC held a news conference prior to the activation and then offered photo and interview opportunities during the week leading up to Super Bowl 51. The Regional JIC also conducted daily conference calls with core partners and participated in daily briefings in the EOC.