Nap Town Awakens

NFL fans in Arts and Sciences, here is your insiders look into Super Bowl 46 in Indianapolis, Indiana. I am an A&S staffer who also just happens to be really interested in emergency preparedness. I am working to complete my degree in Public Health (DrPH). As a part of the degree requirements, I am in Indianapolis this week working with the public health department to see exactly what goes into making an event like the Super Bowl go off without a hitch.

This is really the story of a pipe dream that is happening because the Vice President of the NFL responded to my email. About six months ago it occurred to me that Super Bowl 46 was a golden opportunity to study emergency preparedness given all the responsibilities we have: work, family (two beautiful girls), and the lack of funding for this project). I am from Indianapolis, so I was able to swing accommodations at a great little Inn known as Mom and Dad’s house. Being from Indy, I am familiar with layout of the city and some of the history of the downtown development and the local politics. This was my shot at studying an international Special Security Event in my own backyard.

When Frank Supovitch, NFL VP responded to my email, he set in motion a six month chain of emails and phone calls. As you can imagine, it is a bit tricky to take on an unknown, non-credentialed intern. There are security considerations. There are logistical considerations. And truthfully, I was late to the party. The planning process for this started more than a year ago. It isn’t easy to bring someone in the final stages and believe they won’t get in the way. However, they did and I am grateful. What follows is some of my observations about what it takes to host a Super Bowl.

Blog #7 From Indy

Kara Ann (Guiliani) Cecil

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Eyes in the Sky: Indianapolis, like all most major cities, has cameras stationed around the city. These cameras can zoom two blocks down a street with great clarity. Every minute of footage is recorded and can be recalled when needed. These cameras are also monitored by former sworn officers who have been instrumental in stopping drug transactions, thefts, and violence. Additional temporary cameras have been installed for Super Bowl week. These cameras with: stationed uniformed officers, non-uniformed officers throughout the crowd, and stationed officers on rooftops all make up a small part of the efforts to keep the crowds in Indy safe this week.

 

Blog #6 From Indy

Kara Ann (Guiliani) Cecil

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Tip of the Iceberg Walking through Indianapolis, you can see uniformed police officers directing cars and pedestrians at every major intersection. These officers account for roughly 10% of the security at this event. The other 90% you will never see. This is, of course, by design to keep fans thinking about enjoying themselves and spending money and not thinking about the major target this event is for groups of people trying to garner publicity for their message. Homegrown and international terrorist groups look for high profile public events they can disrupt to gain attention for their cause. They need not cause mass casualties to be effective; simply scaring the public is likely enough.

 

Blog #5 From Indy

Kara Ann (Guiliani) Cecil

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If Indy hosts the Indianapolis 500 and the Brickyard 400 with larger crowds every year, why is the Super Bowl a big deal? The fan base for Indy car racing is dominated by middle class working families with some amount of disposable income and time to travel to Indy, camp for a weekend, and purchase food and beverages to enjoy the race. While this may mirror the broad fan base for the NFL, access to the Super Bowl comes at a high price. Tickets start in the thousands and closer to the game and nearer the field, tickets can cost $10,000. This draws a different crowd than does Indy car racing. Super Bowl visitors are upper class with connections. They utilize the Super Bowl as an opportunity to make professional connections, facilitate business deals, and increase their social capital. These fans are accustomed to a certain level of service and traveling to a major event doesn’t change these expectations. I suspect this classism is the reason why the Super Bowl is designated a National Special Security Event with the 200,000 fans while the Indy car races with two to three times the visitors garners almost no federal intervention for safety and response.

 

Blog #4 From Indy

Kara Ann (Guiliani) Cecil

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The early part in the week in downtown Indy has been dominated by locals and families. Parents with strollers and folks wearing Colts gear are everywhere. The weather has been unseasonably warm making this already walkable city a dream combination for the temporary attractions and businesses downtown. As the week progresses more and more visitors, including celebrities like Katy Perry and Ryan Gosling, can be spotted downtown. By Friday and Saturday I suspect the crowds will shift from locals and families looking for photo ops and group corn-hole games to out-of-towners looking for high end shopping and dining and exclusive parties.

 

Blog #3 From Indy

Kara Ann (Guiliani) Cecil

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I am sitting in the Emergency Operations Center in Indianapolis. I am surrounded by more screens than I can count with all the emergency response plans and real-time updates at the fingertips of the people at each screen. This is the place where all the appropriate agencies can respond to anything from a cluster of illness to a car accident to a major disaster. This is designed to be the command center of a city to direct resources to respond to needs. Every city of substantial size, including Lexington, has a similar room. This is where the response efforts are coordinated. Obviously, access to this area is restricted. The information available is restricted and the response efforts need to be protected from outside influences.

 

Blog #2 From Indy

Kara Ann (Guiliani) Cecil

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The Proof is in the Pudding: So just want does goes into hosting a wrinkle free international sporting spectacle?

Weather: It is no secret that Indy get it share of winter storms. The first weekend in February last year held an ice storm that put many people out of power for days. Indy officials and the Host Committee had its fair share of anxiety concerning the unknown weather factor. However, Indy has experienced an unusual warming trend with weather in the 50s. This temperatures are supposed to drop as the week progresses, but the sheer absence of a blizzard is enough to alleviate major weather concerns for folks responsible for ensuring a positive experience in Indy.

Fear Factor: In a post-9/11 world, everyone has a heightened sense of awareness of the potential for a few motivated individuals to cause untold harm. Before September 2001, very few people without the occupational training and awareness would have thought about the risks associated with an errant package left unattended or why it matters if a car sits in one place over night. However, in this post 9/11 era, nearly everyone is familiar with the potential to weaponize common viruses or bacteria, the presence of YouTube videos on how to make an IED, and the idea that potential perpetrators are motivated and good at ‘fitting in.’

There are pros and cons to this heightened sense of awareness. Of course, with more people concerned about these potential threats, the more people watching and reporting suspicious activity. The cons include the ease of teaching potential perpetrators of how to inflict this harm.

The Real Boogie Man: While there is little to be done but prepare for the weather and mitigating any potential attacks, the real threat that is most likely to tarnish the Super Bowl experience for many is the threat of communicable and food borne diseases. The January/February timeframe typically sees high levels of flu-like symptoms and other communicable viruses. Bringing 200,000 people from various locations across the country to a concentrated one-mile square is creating a Petri dish for spreading cooties. All of these folks are staying in hotels downtown or riding shuttles from various remote parking locations. That means they are all touching the same buttons in the elevator and holding the same rails on the busses. They are sneezing and coughing in their hands before opening doors and using the same port-o-potties around town with limited hand washing facilities.

The best risk mitigation for everyone to practice is washing their own hands, not touching their face, and isolating themselves when they are sick. It just takes one person to ‘tough it out’ to get to the ‘big game’ to infect many people from across the country. 

Blog #1 From Indy

Kara Ann (Guiliani) Cecil

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Hoosier Hospitality is the image Indianapolis wants to portray while hosting their first Super Bowl. The city has worked for years to land what is the Big Fish of sporting events. In May of 2008, it was announced that Indy was finally given this honor. Since that day (or years before depending on how much of this blog you read wink, wink) the city has worked diligently to host the most fan friendly game in Super Bowl history.

Recent preparations included everything from volunteers knitting Blue and White Super Scarves to building the flagship hotel the JW Marriot to purchasing and install $1,200 devices to prevent manhole covers from blowing off.

Looking further back, Indy has been working toward this week for half a century. In the 1960s Indianapolis was known as sleepy, stinky, and scary ‘nap’ town. People worked downtown in the government, finance and business sectors and then ‘got out of dodge’ as quickly as possible. For good reason as there was nothing to do downtown except dodge the droppings of the rampant pigeons.

Some city leaders got together and looked at the abundant problems in Indy and identified a few key assets: 1. Indy had several large areas that were either undeveloped or ripe for redevelopment. 2. Indy greatly benefits from a major pharmaceutical company interested in developing their own city, Eli Lilly. 3. Indiana boasts major high school sports athletes and fans, particularly in basketball. 4. The major entertainment event Indy did well and was known for internationally was the Indianapolis 500 (Indy car racing for those you not familiar with this international phenomenon that predates the NASCAR fad)

Together the mayor and his staff and the development corporation leaders with the Eli Lilly Company decided to hang their hats on sports or more specifically the sports fans in central Indiana. They invested strategically in bringing sporting events to the city with public and private funds literally following the “If you build it, they will come” philosophy. The city invested in sporting venues before they even had teams to play in them. They built Market Square Arena, the Hoosier Dome, Lucas Oil Stadium; Bankers Life Fieldhouse; a huge tennis stadium; IUPUI Natatorium; and Major Taylor Velodrome among others.

Each time, these were difficult decisions that garnered both support and criticism. However, each time the team came and fans supported them. Each addition to the city brought increasing acclaim as a great city to host sport events and a major influx of spending across the city.

This half a century of dedication to the sporting strategy is being tested this week. Indy is dedicated to laying out the red carpet to the NFL and sports fans. Happily, aside from a few hiccups with gusty winds and two stragglers on the zip line, the Circle City is shining. 

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