Officials reviewing Pittsburgh Marathon security

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HELPING THE INJURED–Medical workers aid injured people at the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon following an explosion in Boston, Monday, April 15, 2013. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

 

PITTSBURGH (AP) — The explosions at the Boston Marathon have city police and organizers of the Pittsburgh Marathon reviewing security for the May 5 race, though officials said security is already pretty tight because of a bomb scare in 2010.

That’s when officials found a microwave oven along the race course that was thought to contain explosives.

That scare overwhelmed local cellphone networks and sent organizers scrambling to control the situation — and has resulted in a much more rigorous security and disaster response plan for the race.

“We will be going into meetings between now and race day to discuss security and what else we can do to ensure runners’ safety,” race director Patrice Matamoros said.

Next month’s race is expected to draw about 28,000 runners and up to 50,000 spectators and it figured to be a topic of conversation at the city’s public safety chiefs’ regular monthly meeting on Tuesday even before the Boston bombings.

“Obviously we’re going to sit down and look at it with a different set of eyes now,” said Ray DeMichiei, the city’s deputy emergency management director. “I’m not sure we’re going to do anything differently, but we’re going to look at it and look at it hard.”

After the 2010 bomb scare, race organizers reviewed security and communications plans for other major races, including the Boston and New York marathons, and hired a crisis management team that created game plans to deal with everything from traffic jams and water shortages to bombings.

Race organizers spend about $160,000 to hire 350 on-duty police officers and 200 more security guards, Matamoros said. The race route is checked for suspicious devices and packages, bomb-sniffing dogs inspect people at the starting line, and bike-riding observers and surveillance cameras are used to keep an eye on things during the race.

Race volunteers and sector leaders are given scripted commands they are to use to direct the public in the event of various scenarios, and even those who supply water to the runners — and the 100 or so bands that traditionally play music along the race route — are part of the emergency response plan. The water volunteers and others have megaphones to make emergency announcements, and the bands have agree to use their public address systems for the same purpose, Matamoros said, adding there are plans to evacuate people to schools and churches along the race course.

Pittsburgh Marathon organizers aren’t the only ones reviewing or stepping up security at high-profile events.

Penn State Police Chief Tyrone Parham says his department is evaluating events surrounding this weekend’s Blue-White intrasquad football game, and urged the public to contact law enforcement right away if they see anything suspicious.

In Philadelphia, police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said authorities will be beefing up their security for the 10-mile Broad Street Run, also on May 5. Ramsey said he has been in contact with the FBI and other agencies since the explosions in Boston, but that no specific threats have been received in the city.

Matamoros believes this year’s marathon will be no different than others.

“I think our runners are safe,” she said. “We are doing what it takes to keep them safe, and we’ve been doing it for years.”

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