This post was written by guest blogger Linas Dauksa, Marketing Manager, Enterprise Segment, and DIRT volunteer
Super Bowl 50 was uneventful. Dare I say boring? I’m not talking about the game, but events in the Super Bowl Operations Center. There were 60+ people in the room and none of us were actually watching the game, though it was playing on several televisions. No one cheered at the end when the Broncos won (even though there were Broncos fans – including myself). Instead, we used our unique specialties to ensure that those attending or watching the game in the Bay Area had a safe, fun, and uneventful experience.
The Operations Center provided an environment for Federal, State and Local agencies to coordinate their resources and personnel among 40+ different agencies. There were the local and state police forces, fire departments, Air Force, Army, NOAA (weather), PG&E (our local Gas & Electric agency), various cyber intelligence agencies, and some people in dark suits. I was there – though I’m in Marketing at Cisco – as volunteer with Cisco’s Disaster Incident Response Team, managed by the TacOps (Tactical Operations) Team. Typically TacOps provides communications support during natural or man-made disasters. In this case we were invited to support the Super Bowl.
We deployed the Network Emergency Response Vehicle (NERV). The NERV is one of a series of vehicles that TacOps DIRT maintains in North America that are completely self-sufficient. The NERV has a large generator for electricity, a variety of uplinks, including satellite and LTE, to provide for voice, video, radio and data services in any situation. Should there have been a situation where the existing or backup services had failed, we would have been able to provide instant connectivity for the various emergency agencies at SB50 to allow them to continue to command, control and communicate.
Meraki cloud-managed access points and switches provided a secure wired and wireless backup network to support the data and voice networks. Meraki security devices provided an additional layer of real-time threat detection, Next Generation firewall, intrusion prevention and deep analytics to protect the clients that depended on the network. As a side note, for overseas deployments, we ship a variety of portable setups, mostly based on Meraki technology. You can read about what we recently deployed to Greece.
One thing to keep in mind is that the room probably had a hundred radios in it. All of these agencies use dedicated radios to communicate. The radio frequencies, modulation and encryption vary among the different agencies. So how could different agencies communicate if they are on different radio systems? To help with this situation, we deployed Cisco Instant Connect (IPICS) to connect up different radio systems together (including P25 encrypted radios).
The result was that the radios could talk to each other and they were also accessible on desktop as well as mobile phones. If required, we could have bridged telephone and IP telephone connections together as well. This let first responders monitor multiple radio sources at their desks or walking around (without big antennas jabbing them in the chest each time they lean over).
Why does Cisco do this? It’s part of our Corporate Social Responsibility charter. There is never a charge for this type of service. We are able to help whenever there is a crisis event that requires communications infrastructure and skills – it could be a natural event like a hurricane or be man-made like the refugee crisis, or when we are invited to support Public Safety events like the Super Bowl. When I wake up in the morning, I feel so blessed to be able to work for a company that does this.
Have a look at my short video for a unique behind the scenes tour of our deployment at Super Bowl 50 Operations Center.
More Information about Cisco TacOps, including how to reach out to the Team, can be found at:
If you are a full-time Cisco employee and would like to volunteer: go2.cisco.com/dirt.
Is your company doing anything similar? Let’s discuss in the comments section below.