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Is Pittsburgh Prepared For Major Disaster

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(Photo Credit: NewsChopper 2/KDKA)

(Photo Credit: NewsChopper 2/KDKA)

Andy Sheehan Andy Sheehan
KDKA-TV Investigator Andy Sheehan began his broadcast journalism...
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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – If a major disaster hit downtown Pittsburgh, could the city be safely evacuated?

The city’s been working on an evacuation plan since Sept. 11, but 10 years and a $500,000 later, KD Investigator Andy Sheehan says neither public safety forces, nor the public has been trained.

City officials concede the plan is still not operational. So, what is taking so long?

On Sept.11, 2001, downtown Pittsburgh became gridlocked after fleeing workers became snarled in a monumental traffic jam.

Now, 10 years later, an evacuation plan is still not operational.

It took six years for the city to get a $500,000 federal grant to produce this study. It’s taken another four years to get its own plan ready for action.

“The plan is done. We have it, we can rely upon it. The challenge of operationalizing it is to train our people on it and train the general public on what to do,” Public Safety Director Michael Huss said.

That means in addition to evacuation drills of buildings, the public will need to be trained how and by what means they will get out of town in the event of an emergency.

Under the city’s evacuation plan, office workers are told to come to a rallying point, where they will be taken out of the city by public transportation.

Port Authority buses will be used to take people out of town and into the suburbs. Workers will be told to forget about their cars or getting home until after the emergency has passed.

The evacuation plan would be used for any large-scale emergency, but without a recurrence of a major terrorist attack and memories of Sept. 11 now fading, the city knows a sense of urgency is diminishing.

Since the national tragedy, a sense of complacency has set in. However, perhaps the biggest obstacle to this plan is a lack of urgency.

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