A crowd topping 100,000 is expected to pack Cowboys Stadium and its outdoor plaza in Arlington, Texas. Keeping the event safe and running smoothly requires a small army and a range of security tech.
"We have 10 bomb squads and federal agencies involved in this endeavor," said Stephen Lea, assistant fire marshal with the Arlington Fire Department. They will also have two multifunctional robots present that can handle bomb disposal and emergency response.
The robots are the Andros F5 and HD-1, both made by the Northrup Grumman robotics company Remotec. The larger F5 has been around for several years and is sturdy enough to pull a trailer hitch that is operated remotely.
"We can hook onto somebody who is down in a bad environment and pull the person out of here," Lea said. He added that police departments have the F5 for hostage negotiations because it can be sent in with cameras, microphones and two-way communication.
The smaller HD-1 is newer and also designed for explosive ordnance disposal or EOD. It can move twice as fast as the larger robot, climb stairs and fit into tight spaces. "If we can use the robot to disrupt the device, it's much better than having one of my people needing to put on a (protective) suit," Lea said.
Arlington is no stranger to enormous sporting events requiring tight security. In the past year, the city hosted the NBA All-Star game and the World Series.
The fire department is at every major event, handling measures like sweeping cars. "The difference for the Super Bowl is it takes many more of us because it's such a large event," Lea said.
In December, NFL senior vice president Frank Supovitz told reporters in Texas some of the ways technology will help secure the event. He said the league will use GPS to track cars, limos, and buses that will be carrying teams, officials, and VIPs. This means NFL staff can determine where vehicles are on game day without disturbing the driver for an update in case of delays.
Brian McCarthy, director of corporate communications for the NFL, confirmed that the league will also be using radio-frequency identification chips embedded in some credentials for added security. The credential and the person carrying it will be checked against a database pre-loaded with names and photos.
Readying robots is becoming standard procedure. Lieutenant Gary Bills is the bomb squad commander at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. Bomb squads are required to have remote capabilities, he said. The airport has three different Andros robots, including an HD-1.
"We've had several incidents where we've had to pick up suspicious packages," he said. "We can send these robots directly in. If the worst case happens, we lose part of a robot."
Lea said their robots are just one of the tools in their Super Bowl toolbox. "We've got all kinds of equipment pre-staged."