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Section 7.0. NSSE Overview Fact Sheet

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U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration



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The successful implementation of a National Special Security Event (NSSE) plan requires the participation and coordination of a variety of partner agencies at the federal, state, and local levels. An event is designated as an NSSE by the Director of the Department of Homeland Security based on anticipated attendance by Unites States (U.S.) officials and foreign dignitaries and the size and significance of the event. NSSEs include, but are not limited to, presidential inaugurations, presidential nominating conventions, major sports events, and major international meetings. Federal planning may begin two to three years prior of the event, and local planning should begin 12 to 18 months in advance. Implementation planning includes partners to: 

  • Establish a steering committee
  • Establish subcommittees
  • Identify and acquire resources
  • Construct an operational security plan
  • Establish protocols
  • Conduct training
  • Execute the plan
  • Complete after-action reviews

Generally, an NSSE will encompass all aspects of a jurisdiction’s resources and will require participation and buy-in at the highest levels.  The importance of the role of both the local and state Departments of Transportation (DOTs)/Departments of Public Works (DPWs) cannot be understated.  The effect on a jurisdiction’s transportation system will greatly decrease with the appropriate level of attention provided early, and throughout, the planning process.  With appropriate coordination, cooperation, and negotiation, event-day activities will be successful when transportation professionals are able to apply their knowledge and expertise into the operations of the NSSE.  Post-NSSE activities are also an essential part of the event.  In addition to ensuring the safety of the public and the successful return back to pre-event operating levels, local officials and transportation professionals should conduct after-action reporting and document lessons learned. 

Roles and Responsibilities

While each NSSE is unique, statutory requirements dictate the roles and responsibilities that various agencies have in the planning and execution of events. The U.S. Secret Service (USSS) is the lead federal agency for developing and implementing the operations plan for the NSSE, and local law enforcement serves as the local lead agency for security operations.  All aspects of local government will support an NSSE, from local law enforcement and Fire/EMS to the water and sewer agency, public space/parks, and elected officials.  For a local DOT/DPW, this involvement can include alternative transportation plan development, sidewalk garbage can removal, signal removal, roadway restriping, multiple street closures, partial or complete highway/freeway closures, ramp or overpass closures, detours, debris removal, and expedited or closed construction projects.  Local governments may also coordinate with the private sector for some resources and assistance.  One such example was for the Major League Baseball All-Star Game in Seattle when the city formed a local host committee as a liaison for the NSSE with the business community.

Transportation Planning: Coordination, Assets, and Costs

The USSS will provide information concerning the venue(s) and scope of the event and the local DOT/DPW will be responsible for providing liaison personnel, coordinating and providing resources, developing a comprehensive transportation plan, and helping disseminate information to the public. 

To develop a unified transportation plan, DOT/DPW will coordinate with local law enforcement, fire/EMS and other key partners to address the security concerns and ensure the smooth flow of traffic, including transit vehicles, under heightened security.  DOT/DPW and its partners will make decisions concerning placement of media, spectators, protestors, resources to support the event, street closures, and barricades through close coordination of law enforcement and the DOT/DPW.  As part of this plan, DOT/DPW will include the necessary assets for the event (e.g., barricades, dynamic message signs, parking signs, buses, and staff).  In addition, DOT/DPW will work closely with Fire/EMS to incorporate plans for emergency routing and access to hospital facilities routing plans into traffic management plans.  These routes also need to be coordinated with local law enforcement and USSS committees and coordination officials. With the influx of various state and local transportation and security agencies, event leadership must ensure clarification of assignments and resolution of instances of overlapping jurisdiction in advance of the event.

DOT/DPW must document its costs and track its resources for reporting to the federal government when reimbursement is requested.  From setting detours and lighting removal and replacement, to roadway line markings, traffic cones, and welding of manhole covers, every cost needs to be captured and recorded. Pre-planning should help estimate needs and the cost associated with them; maintaining this inventory will help DOT/DPW when it is necessary to restock equipment and supplies expended during the NSSE.  DOTs/DPWs may find the FHWA publication, Planned Special Events: Cost Management and Cost Recovery Primer, helpful in their NSSE planning process.

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May 2011
Publication #FHWA-HOP-11-012