Mike Lindsey is pretty proud of his "war wagon."
That's what he calls the mobile communications trailer he helped develop for Tempe, Ariz., to facilitate communications between multiple public safety agencies during major events like the 2002 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl National Championship football game.
"We took multiple police agencies on multiple frequencies, on different bands and different formats and everything else, and tied them all together so they could communicate on one channel and be dispatched by one dispatcher," said Lindsey, communications network supervisor for the city's Information Technology Department. "We built a true, public safety interoperability platform."
Years in the Making
The city flirted for years with the idea of building a mobile communications trailer for events like the Fiesta Bowl and the annual Block Party, which draws more than 100,000 revelers. The city would prepare for months for these events, then disassemble everything until the following year, Lindsey said.
Then came 9-11. "It became really apparent that we needed to move toward this," Lindsey said. "We said, 'OK, we've got to be prepared for events like weapons of mass destruction as well as other things.'"
The city bought an 18-foot trailer. "Just a box unit with two AC units on it," Lindsey said. Then the city added a highly specialized cross-connect system known as an ACU 1000 developed by JPS Communications. The technology -- previously available only to the military -- provides the translation between the disparate systems, allowing the city to patch one or many agencies' radio signals to another agency's receiver.
The system is capable of tying together three 800 MHz trunking systems, three VHF radio systems, two UHF radio systems and a ham band, according to Lindsey. "It brings everybody together, so you have true interoperability," he said.
The system also supports long-range cordless phones that work indoors, unlike satellite phones that only work outdoors. The phones have two-way radio capacity and text messaging.
Some of the equipment was collected through the years, but Lindsey said if he had to rebuild today, the cost of the entire unit would be $180,000.
The trailer proved useful during large events, such as the Fiesta Bowl Block Party on New Year's Eve and for the DUI task force, which convenes for a month during the holidays and for various occasions throughout the year. It also provides a backup to SWAT operations and two-alarm fires.
The trailer also was activated during the Fiesta Bowl between Ohio State University and the University of Miami, which held potential for terrorism because of the event's size and visibility. To compound the situation, this was the first game where beer was sold and city officials were cautioned that Ohio State fans got out of hand after the team's previous win.
The Fiesta Bowl attracted federal agencies including the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, as well as military bomb disposal units, local police, Arizona State University police and University of Arizona police -- and all efforts had to be coordinated.
Under the direction of university police -- who coordinated the effort from the communications trailer -- the bomb disposal units covered the entire stadium prior to the game. After the Ohio State victory, fans poured from the stadium and headed for downtown Tempe, and several hundred police officers from various jurisdictions were rerouted to different sites near the stadium.
"We had no problems whatsoever, but I think that was because we had a coordinated effort with over 200 police officers involved in making sure nothing did get out of hand," Lindsey said.
Kevin Kotsur, Tempe's assistant chief of police, said the event was routine from a police standpoint with the usual incidents -- like fistfights and minor injuries