Protecting the Super Bowl: Tampa Fire Rescue

Those who have not hosted a Super Bowl may tell you, "It's just a football game." But ask anyone in a community that has hosted America's unofficial holiday, the Super Bowl, and they will tell you it's a planning-intensive, security-driven super event.


Those who have not hosted a Super Bowl may tell you, "It's just a football game." But ask anyone in a community that has hosted America's unofficial holiday, the Super Bowl, and they will tell you it's a planning-intensive, security-driven super event. When a community hosts the Super Bowl, the...


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The first true medical emergency occurred at the beginning of the game. Paramedics responded to a middle-aged man who was not feeling well. As to be expected, the sickest person in the stadium was in one of the highest tiers of seats in the massive stadium. A quick evaluation indicated the man was suffering a myocardial infarction. While providing ALS care, paramedics in the stadium worked the man down to the main first-aid station. From there, the man was transported on a cart out to the perimeter of the stadium, where an ALS unit transported him to a hospital about a mile away. The man was treated with cardiac catheterization and is now doing well. Through the evening, medics transported nine patients from the stadium to local hospitals. A typical NFL game at the stadium would result in one or two transports.

Fire inspectors kept a check on the many fireworks displays being used on the field and around the stadium. Inspectors also made sure that fire codes were maintained and quickly responded to any alarms in the stadium. Firefighters stationed with the combat units stayed quiet most of the evening and the Hazardous Materials Team kept a check on air-monitoring equipment.

Just down the road from the stadium in a vacant aircraft hangar, the Tactical Operations Center (TOC) was established. The TOC held units that were to be the first responders into the stadium should a significant event occur. The TOC housed a large reserve of law enforcement, fire, urban search and rescue (USAR) and federal resources. Fortunately, none of these resources had to respond.

Two years of planning and coordinated efforts by local, state and federal agencies produced a seamless and safe experience for fans and the teams. For the safety of future Super Bowls, many of the plans and experiences must be kept confidential. Lessons learned at this Super Bowl will not go to waste, as information is shared with future host cities. When a city is awarded the Super Bowl, one responsibility of the local host committee is to ensure that public safety officials travel to game-related sites in the year or two before the game. When the Phoenix, AZ, area hosted the Super Bowl in 2008, Tampa public safety officials were on hand to see the operation. Days before Tampa hosted the game, public safety officials from future host cities — Miami, FL, Arlington, TX, and Indianapolis, IN — were in town to observe and learn. The information they picked up, first hand, will benefit their communities as they prepare to be the center of attention at upcoming Super Bowls.

BILL WADE is a captain and spokesperson for Tampa, FL, Fire Rescue and has been in the fire and emergency medical services since 1973. He has been a firefighter, paramedic, tactical medic and hazardous materials technician. Wade has a bachelor's degree in education from the University of South Florida and is certified as a Florida Professional Emergency Manager.