Office of Operations
21st Century Operations Using 21st Century Technologies

Lessons Learned

Overall, the NSSE was deemed a success.  Both the media and the community at large noted that metropolitan Denver was still open and accessible even during the NSSE.  This case study identified a number of good practices:

  • Conduct Training and Exercises Early – Despite the 18-month planning process, it’s never too early to start conducting training and exercises.  Define relationships and responsibilities early in the process.
  • Get the Right People – When conducting training, it’s not only important to have representation from the right agencies, but the right people from those agencies also need to be involved. 
  • Be Considerate of Staff’s Time and Commitment – Intense training and planning on top of normal duties can leave staff burnt out.
  • Just-in-time Training – Some staff will inevitably show up at the last minute.  An expedited training program also should be established for those individuals who show up to help at the last minute.  Field guides can facilitate the process.
  • Proper Training – Conduct training and tabletop exercises to test plans.  The NIMS and ICS training program were both critical to the planning process and provided an opportunity for everyone involved to have some basic understanding of command structure.  This includes training for both large- and small scale events.
  • Remember That Not Everyone Has Been Trained – It’s important to communicate to staff that have been involved in the entire training process that not everyone has been properly trained as thoroughly as they have.
  • Permanent Committees – In response to the positive experience of the NSSE safety and security committee, Denver is currently in the process of forming a permanent committee.
  • Utilize Technology for Communications – The use of the City’s robust fiber optic network was critical to providing high-quality, high-speed communication among partners; utilize this technology to increase information sharing.
  • Utilize Technology for Tracking – Using technology was critical including WebEOC, CCTV, DMS, and GPS tracking for delegates and dignitaries.  Technology can also be utilized to document events, including tracking time and finances.
  • Establish Communications Plans and Operations Manuals – Ensuring that each group and command center had communications plans and operations manuals ensured continuity of operations, open communications, and a universal understanding of the chain of command. 
  • Develop Partnerships with Other Agencies – Know counterparts in sister agencies, cities, and counties.



W. Scott Field, Deputy Director for Operations, Denver Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security
Matthew Wager, Director of Operations, Traffic Engineering Services, Denver Department of Public Works


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May 2011
Publication #FHWA-HOP-11-012