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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

HPP Impact: The Super Bowl and the College Football National Championship

Few sports are as cherished as football. Each year, avid football fans gather to support their favorite teams at the heart of professional and college football competitions - the Super Bowl and the College Football National Championship.

For emergency preparedness professionals, highly visible mass gatherings like these sporting events require significant planning, coordination, and organization. Super Bowl XLIX, held in Phoenix in January 2015 was no exception. A million additional people were expected to enter the area for the Super Bowl, which required large-scale preparations in the event of an emergency that required the health care system to surge to meet increased patient demand.

Preparations began by establishing working groups to break down the event requirements. A public health and medical working group was created to structure resources, response, and personnel. The Super Bowl occurred during peak flu season and a saline shortage, so making sure the health care and public health systems were adequately prepared was a key effort.

Additionally, the Arizona Coalition for Healthcare Emergency Response-Central (AzCHER), the local Hospital Preparedness Program (HPP)-supported health care coalition (HCC), rallied private sector organizations to create a Super Bowl Task Force. With over 40 hospitals in the Phoenix area (including 7 trauma centers and 2 pediatric trauma facilities) and Super Bowl related-events hosted on tribal lands nearby, professionals in public health, health care and private industry needed to work together to ensure the health care system was ready to respond.

Keith Fehr, AzCHER-Central Chair and Super Bowl XLIX Task Force Lead, focused efforts on expanding and diversifying HCC membership beyond acute care centers to include ambulatory surgical centers, community health centers, long term care facilities, tribal councils, and public health departments. This diverse mix promotes more comprehensive preparedness, response, and recovery measures. Mr. Fehr said, “AzCHER was instrumental in coordinating our medical systems in the Phoenix area. The Hospital Preparedness Program emphasizes engaging the entire health care system to ensure we work together as a whole, and that’s what we’ve done.”

Working closely with the growing membership of the local HCC, HPP partnered with the Arizona Department of Health Services to ensure individual personnel were appropriately trained. Gabe Gabriel, Co-Chair of Super Bowl XLIX Public Health/Medical Response Workgroup, commended HPP’s decision to send staff to the Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP).

The CDP is a Federal Emergency Management Agency facility in Anniston, Alabama that trains disaster response personnel on critical areas, from leadership skills to decontamination processes. In the months prior to Super Bowl XLIX, more than 100 AzCHER members were trained not only at the incident command level but also in direct patient care, ensuring that trained personnel were available across the spectrum of care.

HPP works closely with local HCCs to plan, prepare, and train for large events, such as the Super Bowl. Fortunately for football fans across the country, lessons learned and best practices developed during preparations for Super Bowl XLIX made planning and coordinating much smoother for other events, such as the College Football National Championship game, which took place in Arizona a year later.

Lessons learned included streamlining daily updates shared throughout the Phoenix health care and emergency response community to prioritize the most important information. They also included formalizing a communications plan to ensure the community was fully coordinated. Through its experience hosting the Super Bowl, the Phoenix area HCC was fully equipped to prepare for the College National Championship game and function efficiently and effectively using fewer federal resources.

“Having the experience and support of HPP during the Super Bowl really helped us understand how to bring the whole health care community together for a large event.” Gabriel said. “Thanks to these valuable experiences we know exactly what we need to do for next year when we host the Final Four in 2017. HPP’s contributions and trainings prepared the Phoenix area to be a safe and coordinated hub for many major sporting events and we are thankful for their resources and support.” 

  • This page last reviewed: December 15, 2016