San Antonio slam-dunks Final Four security

San Antonio outfitted a tractor-trailer with satellite links, GIS and wireless capabilities to monitor the Final Four games from a safe distance.

Tractor-trailer brings the back office out front

A souped-up tractor-trailer wove a security net around San Antonio during the National Collegiate Athletic Association's Final Four games in April.

About 90,000 people descended on the city for the college basketball championship event, raising serious security concerns.

Capt. Tom Polonis, commander of traffic and emergency operations for the San Antonio Police Department, said the city over the years has tried various ways of securing the event.

'We've had converted RVs and quick-deployment tents,' Polonis said. The trick is to closely monitor the sports arena, while keeping enough distance that rescue staff survive in case of emergency.

This year the city used a high-tech trailer as its mobile command post. Polonis and his team searched the Internet and found a tractor-trailer previously used by telemetry engineers at Ford Motor Co. They set up the trailer a quarter-mile northwest of the Alamodome.

The trailer was outfitted with an expanded command room, a 15-station phone system from Avaya Inc. of Basking Ridge, N.J., a 17-station cellular phone system from Cingular Wireless of Atlanta, and a satellite uplink and downlink from TracStar Systems Inc. of Orlando, Fla.

The trailer also contained desktop and notebook PCs, three 42-inch plasma TVs and a multimedia PC from Gateway Inc. Wireless access was available via General Packet Radio Service cards in computers or cell phones.

Blimp view

An ArcView geographic information system from ESRI of Redlands, Calif., provided street map and satellite overlays, Polonis said. The city could even have done plume modeling if a toxic substance had been released into the air.

On top of the trailer was a 56-foot retractable pneumatic mast with a color camera from Shook Mobile Technology LP of San Antonio. Emergency officials viewed live video feeds from the Saturn blimp, which circled the skies during the Final Four.

'We had a lot of views and vantage points,' Polonis said. 'If something had happened during the Final Four, we didn't have to worry about being in the back office somewhere. We weren't inside the dome, but we were close enough to respond.'

Eight people can work in the trailer comfortably, he said. During the Final Four games, the trailer housed representatives of the FBI and of San Antonio's police, fire and emergency medical service departments.

About the Author

Trudy Walsh is a senior writer for GCN.

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