Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Agency Leaders Say They're Cooperating, Ready for the Summit

The heads of a number of security and safety agencies recently held a media briefing to outline security details. They say they are prepared for the G20 summit and the protests thanks to close cooperation and support between regional, state and federal agencies.

Jim Gehr, Special Agent in charge of the Secret Service office in Pittsburgh says big events like the baseball All-Star game and the election campaign last year helped prepare the region for these type of big, high stakes events. But he says this one is even bigger in terms of security. In response to questions about CIA hold ups on issuing protest permits, Gehr says the decisions were absolutely up to Pittsburgh officials, though they were delayed in handing them out by the CIA's need to determine the security zone around the convention center. Gehr also said that Pittsburgh's topography offers both security challenges and benefits, but he's confident downtown will be safe for the summit.

Major General Randy Marchi of the Pennsylvania National Guard was at the briefing and says that 2,500 guards are at the ready should they be needed. But for the most part, he says they will be on hand to help out with the tasks of traffic direction, crowd control and other duties that keep the city moving smoothly.

Bob Full, Allegheny County Emergency Services Chief could not say enough about the cooperation and communication between security agencies. He also expressed appreciation for law enforcement from around southwestern Pennsylvania that have stepped up when Pittsburgh asked them for help. He says EMS will have double the amount of work during the summit-- they will continue to provide the same level of service that residents expect, while anticipating extra safety situations due to the influx of visitors and protesters. He says they have expanded their shifts to make sure that personnel are on hand. Full admitted that it might feel like a bit of a let down if they do not end up using any of the resources and extra training they've learned during the summit, but ultimately he wants a safe event that can exemplify the regions preparedness and capabilities.

There will be 40 agencies on hand during the summit, with 4,000 law enforcement officials.

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