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Harris County Sheriff's Office Joint Operations Command (JOC) Super Bowl LI Deployment

Author: Bryan K. Rudel

Copyright: Copyright 9-1-1 Magazine, Feature Content

Date: 2017-02-23
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In 2015, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office began the buildout of a unique, one of a kind mobile command vehicle to be used in support of Super Bowl LI in Houston, TX February 5, 2017. The platform for this unit was a 2005 53’ command trailer that was used as a mobile Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) until it’s decommission in 2014. The role for this unit for Super Bowl LI would be as a Unified Command Center providing workstations for multiple law enforcement and public safety entities on Super Bowl Sunday at NRG Stadium.

Buildout Of A Multi-Agency Mobile Command Post

With ten (10) workstations already in place, it was determined the best route would be to upgrade each workstation with multi-line IP Avaya telephones, Dell small form factor computers with dual screens, Motorola AES/DES encrypted base radios with Planet Headset Mobile Conductor radio headsets capable of UHF, VHF, and 7/800 frequencies, Dispatch CAD at each workstation, and Iron Horse Heavy Duty 24/7 adjustable rolling chairs.

To increase State, Regional, and Local interoperability with Public Safety entities, this unit was outfitted with an Interoperable Gateway System (IGS) called Mutualink. This system allows the operator to patch phones and radio talk groups into a secured online incident, regardless of the make, model, or frequency of the radios connected. This system also has the ability to share live video within a secured incident. Each participant has the ability to use simple text messages among the group and attach documents/photographs to the incident for sharing.

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To accommodate the mass amount of data flow and throughput needed for these systems in this mobile command unit, as well as the fact that the commercial cellular system would certainly be affected by the large crowds gathered at NRG Stadium, it was determined to invest in a broadband microwave system for primary connectivity. After much research and testing, the Broadband Antenna Tracking Systems (BATS) was chosen, as this system provides a point-to-point high speed microwave connection with speeds up to 200Mbps with no negative impact from public cellphone users, which would be paramount for this type of event.

Super Bowl Deployment Results

With the BATS connection established with a temporary antenna setup on the roof of a nearby building as a backhaul, the JOC was able to connect and maintain a reliable high speed data connection of up to 180Mbps, which easily ran all of the onboard computer software programs, Dispatch CAD, Mutualink, and live online video streaming without any noticeable degradation in image quality or loss of connectivity. Nor was there any negative impact by the thousands of fans on site, connected wirelessly to their commercial cellular carriers during the big game.

Multiple law enforcement agencies effectively worked out of the JOC, utilizing the large space and individual workstations to accomplish their individual missions for the Super Bowl. Example of programs utilized were mapping software to track SWAT teams by their Commanders, online camera programs to view real time video from hundreds of locations within the City of Houston, and Dispatch CAD for on-site Tactical Dispatchers to monitor movement of officers. The simultaneous use of all of these programs was the direct result of the high speed microwave connection through BATS.

This opportunity for multiple agencies to work from a single, large platform Mobile Command Post gave personnel a chance to learn how other agencies operate, thus the JOC becoming a training environment. One of the Sheriff’s Tactical Dispatchers stated, “Working with other agencies and getting a perspective of how they operate was an integral part of our experience.” During the Super Bowl deployment, multiple SWAT personnel expressed how easily they were able to accomplish their duties with the available resources in the JOC and the large working space necessary for a successful mission of this magnitude.

Future Uses For The Joint Operations Command Vehicle

With the way this unique command trailer is setup, the JOC will be used for a variety of different emergency responses that would require multiple agencies to work from a Unified Command. The radios at each station can be used to almost any radio frequency in the region and has encryption to provide the most interoperability possible. This would be ideal for incidents such as a large plant explosion where there would be law enforcement, EMS, and fire departments working the command post.

The JOC could be used as a temporary mobile dispatch center in the event an emergency dispatch center in the region loses power or connectivity. With each workstation having mobile radios with headsets, the JOC would be able to handle up to 10 dispatch stations with the availability of telephonic connectivity, as well. With the onboard Mutualink IGS system along with the Motorola Motobridge system, patching radio talk groups would easily be done in the field.

There are a myriad of emergency response scenarios suitable for a unique command post such as the JOC. This unit should prove its worth many times over throughout the years by providing support in the South Texas Region, as proven by the successful deployment for Super Bowl LI.

Bryan K. Rudel is a sergeant with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office (TX) assigned to communications and mobile command. For more information about Harris Co S.O. see

Related stories:
Connected: High-Speed Public Safety Communications Network Supporting Super Bowl LI

Mobile Command Post Technologies - What can be done to improve field communications in your agency? by Bryan K. Rudel





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