PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Over 700 law enforcement, EMS, firefighters, doctors, and nurses gathered downtown for a special conference on bioterrorism.
“In many cases, the bioterrorist can be much more devastating and the number of people affected can be much wider than actually an active shooter,” said Marcus Brown, director of the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security.
With potential victims in the thousands, that office teamed up with the state’s Health Department and U.S. Attorney Scott Brady to sponsor this event.
“It’s a scary topic, frankly, because what we’re talking about are individuals or organizations using either chemical weapons or viruses and releasing them in a way to maximize either harm to the public or just create general insecurity and chaos at a public event,” Brady told KDKA’s Jon Delano on Wednesday. “So this is an important issue that we in law enforcement talk about all the time.”
So far, this region has been lucky.
Delano: Have we had incidents of bio-terrorism in western Pennsylvania?
Brady: So far, we have not. We’ve been fortunate, but as we look at the threat matrix two years out, four years out, we know that that’s a real threat.
Attendees said they take the possibility very seriously.
“Absolutely, bio-terrorism is a real threat when we talk about food service, when we talk about public safety, public health,” said Bernard Mohan, Battalion Chief of Hazardous Materials for the Pittsburgh Firefighters. “It’s definitely something we have to have an awareness of.”
Conference attendees said they are both learning and networking.
“This is a unique opportunity because we have law enforcement, we have EMS, we have health care, all at one conference,” added Diane Fitzhenry, Supervisor of Penn Hills EMS.
So what can the public do to combat bioterrorism?
Most every official says the same thing: report suspicious activity, and if you see something, say something.