Public safety officials, organizers discuss security measures ahead of big upcoming events

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.– Department of Public Safety Director Troy Riggs said it may be Thursday before local officials learn details about the Boston Marathon bombing from federal authorities.

Those lessons will be applied locally as Indianapolis prepares this weekend to host the Susan G. Komen Run for the Cure, the Mini-Marathon in early May and the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race.

“This is the first time I was alerted to a tragic event, terrorist event, through Twitter,” said Riggs. “I would like to use Twitter and social media to information out to the community if we have anything from weather alerts to security that we have that we can get that out immediately. Also, to receive information from the public.”

Riggs said he has been informed by Indiana Pacers security that trash cans will be removed from the exterior of Banker’s Life Fieldhouse during the upcoming NBA playoffs.

City officials will also be meeting with marathon organizers to determine what additional security measures will be taken.

In the past two years, Indianapolis has hosted the Super Bowl as well as responded to the Richmond Hill explosion disaster and the Indiana State Fairgrounds stage collapse. Riggs said those responses, combined with ongoing training, have prepared local emergency crews to deal with disasters.

“I can tell you that the Department of Homeland Security has been doing training of a lot of individuals, including individuals with handicaps,” Riggs said. “They do table top exercises quite frequently.”

Riggs said that the city’s troubled Regional Operations Center on the east side is fully functional and will host more event responses this summer.

Earlier this year, one out of every four of the more than 100 city surveillance cameras was out of operation. Riggs said a recent maintenance contract has technicians repairing those cameras.

The Richmond Hill disaster showed the value of federal and local authorities working together to solve a crime as well as police officers, firefighters and ambulance crews responding often without direction.

“One of the things that we have here is a basic component but an extremely important component for responding to emergencies and that is that every one of our police officers have take-home vehicles and much like Richmond Hill, officers are required to respond and if something occurs, they will respond and in large numbers.”

A similar attitude has been adopted at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, where a stage in the summer of 2011 collapsed, killing seven people and injuring dozens.

A top-to-bottom review of the Fairgrounds’ emergency preparedness led to a 400-page report by an outside consultant that makes public safety the responsibility of everyone on the Fairgrounds.

“We have a new communications system that helps us get every stakeholder necessary involved in our process if we need to respond to something,” said Fairgrounds spokesman Andy Klotz. “We’ve put all the emergency personnel and all the people that are here during the state fair in one spot so that you can have instant communication.

“We have this training system so in order to be a volunteer, a full-time employee or even a sponsor out here, you have to go through a training system that he haven’t had prior to 2012.”

Klotz said the Indiana State Fair emergency action plan has been reviewed by the fair industry across the country as well as state and local officials.