One plan. One planning agency. One partnership.
That's the goal laid out for Utah law enforcement agen-cies when it comes to planning security measures and public safety for the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City.It's no easy task when you consider the obstacles: hundreds of thousands of people, multiple venues in multiple cities and multiple jurisdictions.
Just how that will be accomplished is something the State Olympic Public Safety Command - the group charged with orchestrating a security plan - hopes to have figured out long before the Olympic torch begins its trip to the city.
This week, law enforcement officers met at a command-sponsored public safety summit to talk about plans in progress, share lessons learned from visits to the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano, Japan, and to glean pearls of wisdom from those who helped plan the Games in Atlanta and Calgary. It was the second such conference held by the State Olympic Public Safety Command, the group charged with crafting an overall law enforcement vision for 2002.
"We need input from everyone that is going to be involved," command chairman Craig Dearden said. "We are going to have our hands full . . . those of you who have been to previous Games, you recognize how busy we're going to be and what we're going to be up against."
But Dearden is confident that Utah law enforcement will rise to the challenge. The way to get there, he said, is through good planning and good communication and coordination.
"The governor said it this morning, one plan, one planning agency, one partnership," Dearden said, referring to a speech made by Gov. Mike Leavitt Thursday to open the two-day summit. "The idea behind the command was to have this one group speaking for everyone and prevent everyone going out on their own."
That was something that didn't happen in Nagano, said Salt Lake City Fire Battalion Chief Jeff Stansfield, who is one of the 20 public safety professionals on the command. Stansfield noted that Nagano's various agencies appeared to have adequate emergencies plans, but didn't seem to operate as a unified force.
"There seemed to be a lot of parallel operations," he said.
Planners don't want that to happen in Salt Lake City, said Weber County Sheriff's Capt. Terry Shaw, who is assigned full time to Olympic planning. Fortunately, planners have enough time to test their security and emergency planning theories - both in tabletop exercise and at some smaller pre-Olympic events planned at venue sites over the next three years.
In fact, the command is on target to have its initial law-enforcement plan drafted by December 1998 and a final plan by December 1999, Dearden said. That should give the command plenty of time to work out any potential kinks.
Granted, paper plans are vastly different from real-life operations, and all the planning in the world can't prepare anyone for every possible situation, Shaw said.
"All we can do is plan and build our confidence," Shaw said. "Hopefully, that means if something does happen, we will react to it well and we'll be able to meet the challenge."
What the command doesn't want is for local residents to feel that regular police services will be difficult to access or unavailable during the Games. Nor does the command want security efforts to restrict the fun surrounding the Olympics.
"We don't want to make this a police camp," Shaw said. "The goal is to keep the same level of coverage for cities as they would normally expect. We'll hear about it if we don't. Once the Olympics is over, we have to go back to our communities."
So far, Dearden said, law enforcement plans are coming only faster and more smoothly than he expected. That's due in part to a $2 million federal grant that allowed him to hire an organizational guru and three full-time planners like Shaw.
And the work being done in Salt Lake City is getting rave reviews from other Olympic planners. Three of Thursday's speakers at the summit - two from Atlanta and one from Calgary - complimented the command, saying the group is as much as two years ahead of other cities who have planned Olympic Games.
"We are so far ahead, it's a real benefit to us," Dearden said. "I feel very good about how it's working out."