Marathon Officials Here Take Hard Look at Security

By Schaarsmith, Amy McConnell | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), April 16, 2013 | Go to article overview

Marathon Officials Here Take Hard Look at Security


Schaarsmith, Amy McConnell, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


Even before Monday's fatal explosions at the Boston Marathon, organizers of the Dick's Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon had planned tight security for the city's May 5 race. But after learning of the attack, race organizers and emergency officials plan to take another look at their safety measures and potentially add security measures such as additional bomb sweeps, according to race director Patrice Matamoros.

Runners and spectators are safe at the event, she said, but organizers want to work with city and county public safety officials to make sure the event's security is as strong as possible. The race is expected to draw nearly 28,000 runners and between 30,000 and 50,000 spectators.

"We will be going into meetings between now and race day to discuss security and what else we can do to ensure runners' safety," Ms. Matamoros said on Monday.

Ray Demichiei, the city's deputy emergency management director, declined to say exactly what changes might be made but said Pittsburgh's marathon security will be "the No. 1 issue on the agenda" at this morning's regularly scheduled public safety chiefs' meeting.

"Obviously, we're going to sit down and look at it with a different set of eyes now, considering what happened," Mr. Demichiei said. "I'm not sure we're going to do anything differently, but we're going to look at it and look at it hard."

Until the 2010 marathon, when a microwave containing what was thought to be explosives was discovered along the race route, organizers had used a very basic security plan, according to Ms. Matamoros. But after that bomb scare -- which overwhelmed local cell phone networks, leaving organizers without working cell phones and unable to talk to each other -- she and other organizers got serious about security, she said.

Race organizers studied security and communications at marathons and other major events across the country, including in Boston, New York City and Chicago. They hired a crisis management team from Texas to prepare responses to emergencies as varied as running out of water, traffic jams and the detonation of a bomb. And they worked with the same communications company used by organizers of the Boston Marathon to improve their ability to communicate in the event of a crisis, according to Ms. Matamoros.

Under the Pittsburgh marathon's current security system, she said, organizers pay the city for the help of 350 on-duty police officers and hire an additional 200 security guards, at a cost of approximately $160,000. …

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