An aerial view of the Firefly Musical Festival grounds, crowds of people at several live music stages around the grounds, a packed parking lot

FirstNet brings safety, security to Dover Motor Speedway and Firefly Music Festival

Dover Motor Speedway in Delaware can bring in 58,000 spectators at a time for its racing and entertainment events. Nicknamed the “Monster Mile” for how tough it is on drivers and equipment, it can also deliver tough communications challenges for those who are responsible for keeping visitors safe.

Jim Hosfelt, Assistant Vice President of Public Safety for the speedway and former chief of the Dover Police Department, oversees security for events at Dover Motor Speedway. Hosfelt understands the importance of collaboration, clear communication, and organization among public safety partners during these events.

“My role is to bring all these different entities together to work under one roof, and maintain constant communication throughout the year,” explained Hosfelt. There can be more than a dozen different agencies and teams involved in security plans for a planned event at the raceway. Hosfelt coordinates with everyone: state and local law enforcement, emergency medical services (EMS) teams, state departments of transportation and natural resources, and on-track pit road firefighters and logistics teams.

“Good communication starts with a good game plan,” Hosfelt said. “It's just proper planning, and you can't say it enough.”

Situational awareness from start to finish

Dover Motor Speedway is home to the annual Firefly Music Festival, where more than 100 musical acts perform over a four-day period. More than 50,000 music fans swarm the speedway each summer to attend the festival. For the festival alone, Hosfelt coordinates with close to 1,300 people across various agencies.

With so many involved, reliable, interoperable communications are critical. FirstNet-powered devices help responders communicate, share data, and maintain situational awareness at the event.

Officials at the Joint Operations Center rely on the network to stay connected and in-the-know. FirstNet enables them to live stream video from the field to the Joint Operations Center without network congestion issues, providing decision-makers with a real-time look at what is occurring during the festival.

“The sheer volume and the acreage of this festival means the Joint Operations Center is not on site. But having web-based applications and FirstNet, we are able to access everything seamlessly—the communication, the visual images,” said Hosfelt. “It has evolved to the point where we take it for granted.”

The bandwidth, priority, and preemption on FirstNet enables them to set up more cameras—many in places where visuals did not previously exist. This means responders can keep an eye on developing situations and intervene before something critical happens.

FirstNet is for every arm of public safety response

Hosfelt’s support team includes Unified Command, a private security technology provider. Private security providers can play a critical role during major planned events, supplementing technology infrastructure for responders. At the Firefly Music Festival, temporary stages and campground areas are set up. Unified Command places surveillance cameras around the sites and connects them to their mesh network to get a more complete picture of the festival. They deliver this information to local public safety and private responder entities to help address any incidents or emergencies.

Unified Command CEO Chad Ladov is a former FEMA and U.S. Department of Homeland Security official who has seen firsthand what happens when communications break down. After watching FirstNet in use by public safety agencies at Dover Motor Speedway, he signed up his team as extended primary users.

FirstNet’s primary users are emergency managers, law enforcement, fire, EMS, and emergency communications. The network was designed for public safety users, and they always get the highest level of priority. But a larger community of people pitch in to help during events and emergencies and need priority communications to properly assist. They are called extended primary users on FirstNet. Extended primary users can include public works, utilities, schools, and hospitals, among others. They are critical in helping public safety officials prepare for, respond to, recover from, and mitigate incidents that can overwhelm communities.

Extended primary status on FirstNet has helped Ladov’s team support Dover Motor Speedway’s operations. They use the network as a supplement to voice communications, texting to avoid taking up space on private radio channels, and to share videos and pictures from the festival grounds. Sharing multimedia directly can be easier than verbally describing situations to command staff.

“We now rely upon FirstNet's capabilities to stream live video uninterrupted because there are no limitations on data, as well as no interruption in service—even though you have a huge crowd around you,” explained Ladov. “Getting that video back to the command center gives public safety officials eyes in areas that they really need to monitor 24/7. We haven't been able to do that before.”

Tracking responders for faster response

FirstNet also makes it easier to track personnel and assets across the extensive festival grounds. Unified Command uses the network to map the location of private medical units, including paramedics and EMTs, and to overlay their location information on a map. With this awareness, they can better manage public safety resources and guide them to the precise location of an incident.

“That location tracking with FirstNet is so big, especially in critical situations where it is life and death” explained Ladov. “To be able to say to these EMS officials, ‘Hey, I know where you're at and I know where the incident is. I need you to make a right. I need you to make a left. I need you to go 100 feet forward.’ It's that kind of precise location tracking that has decreased response times. And goodness knows what those decreased response times have done.”

Clear lines of communication

Communication is the foundation of response, and FirstNet’s goal is to keep responders connected to every piece of information they need.

“As a former chief, a former police officer, knowing what FirstNet has been able to do over the years – they have taken public safety to a whole new level that nobody else has,” said Hosfelt. “And for us at Dover Motor Speedway, when both Unified Command and FirstNet are working together, it enhances the public safety product that we can put on our facility, just tenfold. It makes the lines of communication so much cleaner and so much easier. It's comforting to know what FirstNet does hand-in-hand with public safety.”

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