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On a typical Tar Heel football game day, the UNC-Chapel Hill campus sees an influx of as many as 50,000 extra people. Thousands of cars converge on or near campus, and for a few hours, this one-day aggregation of cars and people makes our small town seem a little more like a big city.

On game days the Carolina Campus has the needs of any similarly sized city: food, water, health and emergency care, personal safety, traffic and pedestrian control, waste collection, shelter, retail and the ease of access to all these things that citizens expect in their daily lives. Months before game day, Finance and Operations departments, including Environment, Health and Safety; UNC Police; Transportation and Parking; Emergency Management and Planning; Facilities Services and UNC Student Stores, in collaboration with Athletics and many others, are in almost daily contact, planning for this major campus event.

Five Days Prior — Emergency Management and Planning

Darrell Jeter and Justin Miller
Emergency Management and Planning staff Darrell Jeter (left) and Justin Miller (right) review the incident action plan in preparation for the 2019 UNC vs. Miami game.

Emergency Management and Planning staff begin their football operations preparation as early as the Monday in advance of game day. They are responsible for developing and managing the incident action plan (IAP), which is the high-level operational plan for football command. The plan includes operations for Athletics, UNC Police, Transportation and Parking, event management and outside agency support, such as Fire, EMS and State Highway Patrol.

By the time the big day arrives, Finance and Operations staff fall into their rehearsed routine.

5:30 a.m. — Oversight and Management

Safety briefing
Officers from UNC Police, joined by the State Highway Patrol, Orange County Sheriff’s Office, Chapel Hill Police and Carrboro Police, gather at the Emergency Operations Command Center to review procedures, then deploy to their stations in advance of a game in fall 2018.

For a game scheduled at noon, game day oversight and management begins at the mind-numbing hour of 5:30 a.m., as approximately 320 Transportation and Parking staff members, including nearly 200 daily contract employees, start arriving at their campus stations to clear parking lots, put out 600 traffic cones and 150 signs.

UNC Police, UNC auxiliary officers and contingents from the State Highway Patrol, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office and the Chapel Hill and Carrboro police departments convene in the UNC Emergency Operations Command Center in the Public Safety Building to review the day’s plans.

As fire trucks and other fire units deploy on campus, the UNC Fire Marshals begin fire inspections and a fire watch at Genome Sciences building for the Chancellor’s pre-game event. They also begin the pre-game inspections at the stadium and will stay throughout the game, along with staff from Facilities Life Safety Services, to monitor the fire protection system.

Adam Swift and Emily Powell
UNC Fire Marshals Adam Swift and Emily Powell. Not pictured: UNC Fire Marshals Ashley Hester and Cole Vaughn. Serving as part of the Safety Branch under Kenan Command, they are responsible for the stadium inspections while also providing a fire watch for the stadium during the game.

8 a.m. — The Command Center

Command Cent3er at Kenan Stadium
Deborah Hawkins, parking control and special events manager, oversees the Command Center operations at Kenan Stadium. Command Staff includes representatives from UNC Transportation and Parking, UNC Emergency Management and UNC Police. F&O Staff are joined by UNC Athletics, Show Pros Event Services, South Orange Rescue, Chapel Hill Fire Department and the State Highway Patrol.

Finance and Operations employees and others will be in place to direct the thousands of cars and visitors through the campus and to the stadium, and two command centers, one at the Public Safety Building and another at Kenan Stadium, will manage crowd control and safety.

9 a.m. — Tailgating and Prepping for the Game

UNC Student Store employees — Robert Biggers, Bull’s Head Manager, and student employees — assist customers on game day. According to store manager Michele Gretch-Carter, UNC Student Stores is always a major center of activity on campus, and a winning game day can see a four-fold increase in sales.

UNC Student Stores opens, and more than 80 employees begin to assist the rush of enthusiastic fans. If the Tar Heels pull out a win, sales will be about four times higher than if they don’t.

The Office of Waste Reduction and Recycling gather more than 15 Rameses Recycles student volunteers to assist tailgaters and others in recycling their waste.

Fans will begin tailgating soon, and public safety staff are stationed to ensure safe and responsible tailgating. Carolina Game Day Tailgating Safety Tips.

Sgt. James David and Officer Ray Rodriguez from the UNC Police Community Services Unit, along with students Abhay Donthi and Caroline Henderson, greet fans at Polk Place. How the Community Services team supports students at UNC

Noon — Game Time

Rameses and Rameses Jr. in a golf cart.
VIP guests Rameses and Rameses Jr. catch a ride to the game!

At kick off, as football fans settle into their seats, behind the scenes Finance and Operations staff and others will continue to work the event, while keeping the University’s research, education and operations functions operating like it’s a regular day on campus.

3 p.m. — Game Over

A traffic coordinator directing pedestrians through a crosswalk.
Our Transportation and Parking staff ensure fans can travel safely through campus on game day.

After the Tar Heels win another one, and for about the next two hours, the pressure on the safety and transportation units dramatically increase, as thousands of fans want to get back to their normal Saturday activities as soon as possible. Thousands more still have plenty of time and spirit, so they head to the Pit, UNC Student Stores and Franklin Street to shop, eat and celebrate.

7:30 p.m. — Clean Up and Debrief

From left to right: student volunteers Reed MacDonald, Hayley Russo, Jo Mentxaka and Luke Workley join Olivia Gambocarto, Office of Waste Reduction and Recycling waste diversion coordinator, along with Can Guy (student Laurel Thomas) and student Yuuki Butler, to promote recycling to game day visitors.
A Transportation and Parking staff member removes a parking barrier.

The campus has quieted, and the fire and emergency units have gone, but the pylons and barriers must be removed and the stadium must be cleaned. On average, 9.9 tons of waste will be collected and about 21% of that will be recycled, including 1400 pounds of bottles and other containers and 1.4 tons of cardboard. The following morning, around a dozen groundskeepers arrive to continue cleanup operations and get campus ready for the next week.

One important post-game function is a complete operational debrief, which the Emergency Management and Planning team leads. They review the football command operations post-event to determine what went as planned and what could be improved for the next game.

And in a week or two, as the Tar Heels take on another rival at home, the employees of Finance and Operations and all of those who support this fall ritual will do it all over again.

Editor’s Note: What does your team do to help make Carolina go? Let us know, because we’d like to share it with the rest of the Division of Finance and Operations! Email
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