San Antonio slam-dunks security

A souped-up tractor-trailer wove a net of security around San Antonio during the Final Four games last month.

About 90,000 people descended on the city early last month for the National Collegiate Athletic Association basketball championship games, raising serious security concerns.

Capt. Tom Polonis, commander of traffic and emergency operations for the San Antonio Police Department, said the city in years past has tried several different methods for keeping the event secure.

'We've had converted RVs and quick-deployment tents,' Polonis said. The trick is to closely monitor the sports arena, while keeping enough distance so that rescue staff are still far enough away from the action to be in a position to help, should the unthinkable happen.

This year the city used a high-tech trailer to serve as its mobile command post. Polonis and his team searched the Internet and found a tractor-trailer that had been previously used by telemetry engineers at Ford Motor Co. of Dearborn, Mich.

The trailer was set up a quarter mile northwest of the Alamodome, Polonis said.

The city outfitted the trailer with an expanded command room, equipped with 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 used products from Gateway Inc., including desktop and notebook PCs, three plasma 42-inch TVs and a multimedia PC. The trailer also offered the option for wireless General Packet Radio Service cards in computers or cell phones.

It also had an ArcView geographic information system from ESRI of Redlands, Calif., with street mapping and satellite overlays, Polonis said. The city had the capability to do plume modeling if there was a release of a toxic substance.

Positioned on top of the trailer was a 56-foot retractable pneumatic mast with color camera from Shook Mobile Technology LP of San Antonio. The city could access 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,' he said. 'We weren't inside the dome, but we were close enough to respond. We were ready if something were to happen,' Polonis said.

Eight people can work in the trailer comfortably, Polonis said. During the Final Four games, the trailer housed officials from the FBI and 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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