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

Day of the NSSE

For the DOT/DPW, the NSSE event day can begin at midnight the morning of the event.  Pre-event planning will have already determined the necessary resources and the timeline available to meet certain requirements of the event.  Road closures surrounding the venue may have occurred days before to establish security perimeters and allow law enforcement and the USSS to set up security screening or the media to set up equipment for the event.  For the 2005 Inauguration of the President, DDOT crews were out beginning late the night before the event removing traffic signals along Pennsylvania Avenue, which is the route the newly sworn-in President takes from the US Capitol to the White House.  During this late-night and early-morning operation, DDOT worked with the DC Metropolitan Police Department’s Special Operations Division to close the route one block at a time, and hold it closed, as DDOT crews removed the signals and transported them to storage.  DDOT was also under a time requirement, as the USSS has a specific window to close the route for securing and clearance of all personnel and equipment, and the USSS can begin procedures to sweep the route in time to open it up to the public on event day.  Exact timing of such procedures is necessary to allow each entity to safely complete its job. 


Proper staffing levels should be determined prior to the event and back-up personnel need to be in place in the event of an unforeseen circumstance.  NSSE events can place a strain on even the largest DOT/DPW.  Some NSSEs have also used volunteers to serve as local ambassadors to provide attendees, both delegates and the general public, with directions, information, or other assistance.  Regardless of their position and role, staff will need to be prepared for working long hours and reporting to work when contacted in the event of an incident.  Personnel must make preparations to allow for the demands of the NSSE. 

Personnel assignments can include operations centers, forward command posts, safety/service patrols, and field support teams.  This does not include the myriad of other tasks that may be necessary prior to event day such as welding shut manhole covers, erecting barricades, pre-staging material and equipment, etc.  Where multiple venues are part of an NSSE, teams may receive multiple assignments as protectees move around. 


Feeding and providing water to staff during the event is important and requires coordination.  Pre-staging of meals and water in secure perimeters may be necessary.  Outside secured areas that have specific assignments limiting their mobility may need a runner to ensure staff have adequate food and water throughout the event.  Discussions about the provision for food and water will need to take place with committees where access and security are of higher concern.  Food and beverage vendors need to be qualified in terms of both security and ability to handle the event, with all employees screened as necessary.

For the G-20 Summit, PennDOT reported that its TMC and the command center located close to the venue handled the coordination of food and water for transportation staff.  The PennDOT TMC had food delivered to the staff in the field using internal resources, while the venue command center had food catered for them during the NSSE.  City resources, such as food and water, for personnel working during the G-20 Summit were arranged at the Division level for the DPW. 

Break and Shift Changes

Some local jurisdictions may have regulations or union rules in place that dictate the handling of breaks.  The pre-planning stages need to address these issues, as breaks are essential for all staff assigned to work long shifts or operate in busy areas.  All personnel should receive relief on a pre-planned schedule and on time.  

As with breaks, shift changes are equally important and need to occur on time.  Staff should report any unusual incidents or concerns to the next shift.  Staff should complete follow-up items or requests from operations centers before the shift change if possible. If reporting is required for each shift, staff should deliver a complete and full report to a central location before they leave their shift.  Staff leaving the field should refill any equipment with fuel to prepare for the next shift.  Staff also should replenish any vehicle supplies, especially in the case of safety/service patrols. 

Command Locations

Due to the number of operations centers that can potentially be involved during an NSSE, a plan for reporting and communications is needed.  In many jurisdictions, coordination among operations centers at the local level has already been established to respond to disasters and emergencies.  Some jurisdictions opt to follow this existing chain of reporting.  As a result, the emergency management operations center can become the central point for coordination.  This has worked in many local jurisdictions because the DOT/DPW staff are present in the emergency management operations center usually along with federal, state, and local agency counterparts.  Because of the size and ramifications of the NSSE, the flow of information to and from the federal agencies can also follow channels established for dealing with disasters or emergencies.  The USSS operations center will serve as the coordination point for the NSSE because the USSS is in charge of the event.  However, at the local level, wherever the emergency management operations are located, local commands will come from this location.  This can vary depending on who is the local coordinating agency.

Information from the TMC will move to the EMA and then to the appropriate DOT/DPW liaison staff in the EOC.  This information will then need to be disseminated to all DOT/DPW staff that also require the information.  These individuals can be located either in the field or in other operations centers.  The method of reporting will need to be consistent with standard methods and procedures.  If communications with federal partners requires specific procedures, they should discuss and disseminate this prior to the start of the NSSE. 


Outside agencies such as the USSS and the FBI may monitor communications during the event. It is important to train staff members on how to use communications devices as well as the appropriate etiquette. Radio chatter should not take place or should be kept to an extreme minimum.  Some staff may have access to more channels of communication and may receive specialized handheld radios to support operations.  Additionally, the overuse of acronyms not understood by all participants may create confusion. 
It is important that staff understand what to report over shared channels and what to confine to the DOT/DPW devices or channels.  A majority of the communications will usually be conducted over the DOT/DPW devices or phones for coordination purposes.

Internal Coordination

During the NSSE event, a majority of the DOT/DPW’s role revolves around internal coordination once road closures are in place and traffic detours are established.  Internal coordination will consist of requests that come from the TMC or the local jurisdiction’s EOC.  Web-based technology, including WebEOC®, a web-enabled crisis information management system that provides secure real-time intelligence, traffic, and weather information for sharing among individual participants, improves coordination during NSSEs.  Such systems ensure that all agencies have access to the same situational awareness.  The City of Denver extensively used WebEOC® during the 2009 DNC.  The 2004 DNC in Boston also used this system along with sharing of video, including video from helicopters, via the Internet.

Internal DOT/DPW coordination will include support for additional traffic detours/road closures; incident management issues; and traffic maintenance, monitoring, and timing.  The local EOC should handle issuing, recording, and tracking of coordination requests.  If a request comes from a federal operations center to the local EOC, then the reporting chain internally will feed back to the federal operations center to close out the tasking. 

External Coordination

The DOT/DPW will experience most of its external coordination on the NSSE event day in the initial hours of set-up.  Coordination needs can come from both federal and external state and local entities.  All actions during the early stages of the event set-up will mainly involve situation reports and/or face-to-face requests for plan adjustments in the field. 

Public Information

On event day, information for the public about the NSSE should be in place.  The media surrounding an NSSE will report on the event and be in contact with local officials from the DOT/DPW for the most up-to-date information on traffic conditions and detours.  Any adjustments to road closures and traffic detours need to be disseminated to the media and external partners at the federal, state, and local levels.  At the state and local level, any devices relaying messages to the public will require updating.  Where appropriate, relocation of portable dynamic message signs may be necessary for the best possible exposure to the public. 

Promoting Transit Services

The benefits of public transportation for special events cannot be overstated. In the days leading up to the event, this transportation mode should be heavily promoted if applicable.  On the day of the NSSE, the media will closely cover possible traffic delays and congestion.  A good transit plan communicated to the public may help attendees decide to use transit rather than drive their vehicles.  The transit agency should be staffed and equipped to handle the increased ridership. 


NSSEs require a substantial number of physical and personnel resources for both traffic and security operations.  As described earlier, an NSSE may employ a variety of traffic management devices to support operations, including:

  • Traffic control devices:
    • Traffic cones or barrels
    • Portable signs
      • Incident management signage
      • Traffic control signage
    • Lane striping
    • Barricades[34]
    • Arrow boards
    • DMS (portable and fixed)
    • High-occupancy vehicle lane control
    • Dynamic parking/route signage
    • “No parking” signage
  • Pedestrian control devices:
    • Metal fencing
    • Traffic/pedestrian signal timing
    • Dynamic route signage
  • Information devices:
    • CCTV systems
    • HAR
    • Traffic counters
    • WebEOC®.

Staff will also need additional personal resources including vehicles, handheld signal paddles/flags, flashlights/flares, reflective vests, all-weather clothing, first-aid supplies, computers, communications equipment (radios, cellular phone, etc), extra fuel, and basic tools.  Of particular importance is having equipment prepared and in place well before the event.  For example, vehicles should be fully fueled and equipment should have fresh batteries.  Traffic control or other devices should be in place prior to any security sweeps so that sweeps do not have to be conducted a second time.  Staff should be properly briefed and in place well before the event with clear expectations of their responsibilities as well as the expectation that changing protocols may require additional duties and time spent at the event. The FHWA has prepared Planned Special Events: Checklists for Practitioners, which includes a resource list.[35]

Resource Staging

Resource staging areas should be strategically located throughout the area surrounding the NSSE site.  Field teams will have access to this staged equipment and should keep it replenished for other shifts.  The staging areas will need to be secure from both the public and partner agencies to ensure equipment remains under the DOT/DPW’s control. 

Traffic Incident Management

Considerations must include traffic incident management.  Safety/service patrols play an essential part in supporting quick clearance of any traffic incidents.  Safety/service patrols generally consist of trained personnel who use specially equipped vehicles to systematically patrol congested highways searching for and responding to traffic incidents.  The FHWA Service Patrol Handbook has more information on support that a safety/service patrol program can provide to NSSEs.[36]  Law enforcement should be aware of any issues that occur on detour routes.  During the planning phase, committees should discuss how incident response will be handled, how incidents will be communicated, and how the DOT/DPW can expedite the process of leading or supporting these efforts.  On event day, the combination of a safety/service patrol vehicle, a police unit, and a towing vehicle can help expedite clearance of most traffic incidents. 

Reporting of traffic incidents can come from multiple sources such as the TMC, the media, police, or a call from a motorist.  Internal DOT/DPW reporting of a traffic incident should follow established protocols for recording and clearing.  Information sharing and task-tracking programs like WebEOC® can assist in monitoring resources assigned to traffic incidents, protests, and other incidents in real time.  Where appropriate, traffic incidents that cannot be quickly cleared from the road and involve possible traffic detours associated with them should be reported to the media to minimize traffic delays.  Pre-planning and creating strong partnerships with incident response entities will help mitigate potential issues. 

Security Zone Procedures

Established zone procedures include access into and out of security perimeters.  Law enforcement will require the proper credentials for personnel and their vehicle, where appropriate, to move between zones or perimeters.  Movements that do not support the NSSE operations can result in removal of a credential if it appears the individual does not need to be located in that area.  Security may need to investigate the person and/or vehicle access zones, which is time consuming.  Therefore, movements should only occur when and where it is necessary. 

Traffic Cameras

The use of traffic cameras can become an issue during an NSSE.  Law enforcement during past NSSEs has made requests for access to traffic cameras to assist in monitoring security.  Federal and local laws must be consulted concerning access and use of cameras during such an event.

Despite these issues, traffic cameras, used for their intended and normal purpose, are a helpful tool that can enhance response times to incidents and help when determining the need to adjust traffic signal timing to support the NSSE.  Monitoring of major arterials and alternate routes is an important part of a TMC’s role during an NSSE.  These routes will require monitoring to determine whether traffic detours are working and where traffic issues must be addressed. 

Intersection Traffic Control

In certain situations, when an NSSE is in a major metropolitan downtown area, intersections beyond the venue location may require trained traffic control personnel.  These officials can assist with monitoring traffic and reporting issues back to the TMC, keeping intersections from being blocked, and moving traffic. 

Because traffic signal timing can be very sensitive and where changing timing in one location can have an adverse effect on several locations, intersection traffic signal control may not always be the best alternative.  Advance planning and some rush-hour traffic signal timing sequences can alleviate congestion. 

Road Construction Work Zones

On the day of the NSSE, road construction work zones should be secure and clear of debris, and contact information for the superintendent or local personnel should be on hand.  It is not uncommon to call back POCs to a work zone to secure the site or remove or secure equipment.  Where possible, the DOT/DPW in conjunction with local law enforcement should monitor road construction work zones for abnormalities.  The DOT/DPW is well suited for this task because members of the staff may already be familiar with the work site and therefore better positioned to notice any unusual changes.  However, report any suspicious activity to the appropriate agency. 


Parking will be at a premium on event day, requiring event organizers to develop specific and clearly communicated parking policies, including deploying a substantial number of “no parking” signs.  Since parking may be scarce, it is necessary to implement transportation alternatives that increase pedestrian access, including additional shuttle and transit services.  Furthermore, parking crews may find themselves replacing no-parking signs put up pre-event.  The public may have taken such signs for a variety of reasons (e.g., because they want souvenirs or they are an inconvenience).  Not all jurisdictions are able to support this type of operation, and it may require countermeasures, including using metal signs that can be securely fastened, ensuring that signs are placed in well-lit areas, labeling signs with a warning of the legal punishment for their theft, or using unique and specially designed meter bags that attach to parking meters and prevent removal.

Last-Minute Requests

Requests will come in at the last minute and will require flexibility on the part of the DOT/DPW.  In some circumstances, these requests are negotiable, while ones that are security related may not be negotiable.  It will be necessary to evaluate each request and convey the effect of the requested changes.  A complete picture will help both the requesting agency and the DOT/DPW make the best decisions.  If there are any changes, both internal and external partners must be aware of them.  For the 2008 DNC, organizers chose to move one night of the main event from the indoor Pepsi Center to the outdoor Invesco Field with only 30 days of notice.  The result was that it required a new transportation plan including new road closures.  Organizers had to quickly assess which roads to close, when to close them, the extent of the closures of these roads, and the appropriate delegate routes.  Based on the number of attendees expected, they had to devise new parking plans, shuttle routes, and pedestrian access.  The entire process required organizers to revise 11 months of pre-planning in only 3 weeks. 


Plans should include measures for poor weather conditions.  This could mean snow plows for winter weather conditions or cooling buses for extremely hot conditions.  Adequate resources and personnel need to be on standby to support these efforts.  Usually the entity in charge of the local emergency management functions will be in touch with the National Weather Service as the event day approaches to determine the expected weather conditions and how they affect preparations. 

[34] Barricades used for traffic control purposes can vary by style and type depending on the manufacture and local requirements. 

[35] Planned Special Events: Checklist for Practitioners.

[36] Service Patrol Handbook.

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May 2011
Publication #FHWA-HOP-11-012