Are You Prepared: A World Cup Qatar 2022 Story

Monday, August 7, 2023 | 3:30 – 4:30 p.m.
Andre Jones, PhD, MPA, MS, CPE, ENP | Hamad Medical Corporation, Ambulance Service, Doha, Qatar

The day Andre Jones arrived in Qatar nine years ago, a sandstorm enveloped the tiny Gulf state roughly the size of San Diego County. Jones was about to enter another kind of storm as one of the lead administrators preparing Doha for the 2022 World Cup. On Monday, Jones, who holds a Ph.D. in emergency management with long experience in practical emergency services in American cities, described how he prepared and managed ambulance and dispatching services for the world’s largest sporting event that brought 1.4 million to his adopted city.

Noting that the United States hosts the 2026 World Cup, Jones said lessons from Dohan are relevant to American venues and for any city preparing to host extraordinary mass gatherings.

“The country was pretty much turned upside down after I arrived,” Jones said, speaking of the rapid infrastructure construction.

As the face of Doha was transformed, Jones transformed the emergency communications center, traveling to Jordan and India, recruiting 57 new public safety telecommunicators to work in a multi-lingual, multinational environment. He said 53 of them still work in the national ECCs.

Jones expanded public safety communication capabilities by acquiring mobile dispatch communications trucks to deploy public safety communications at fan venues and soccer stadiums.

When acquiring these vehicles, Jones cautioned to “make sure the things you put on the unit are usable, and the people who you put on it know how to use it.”

He recommended expecting the unexpected. During planning for the World Cup, Doha was struck by Covid, as the rest of the world was. But the desert nation that rarely experiences precipitation also was hit by monsoon rains that flooded buildings and stranded ambulances.

Because the city has difficult-to-understand addressing, the government placed blue signage on the sides of buildings that simplified the way people could identify their locations when calling the national emergency number, 999. Officials began a campaign to raise the awareness of using emergency numbers only for emergency calls.

An order came down one month before the World Cup from the strategic decision-making level that the ECC should acquire a new CAD system. Knowing this was impossible before the tournament, Jones rigged a Microsoft Teams/Sharepoint call register to suffice.

Jones said agencies should plan for communication, coordination control and command by considering manpower and preparedness/training and by taking into account the community that will continue business as usual.

“Communications is often left out of the mix. It is important that we insert ourselves in the conversations at every level,” Jones said. “You want to establish very, very early on what are the expectations.”

By Rick Goldstein