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Homeland security conference opens in downtown Buffalo

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

An estimated 1,500 guests from numerous police, fire and first-response agencies are in Buffalo for an annual homeland security conference. The first morning of the event included tales told by police who were there for the Orlando Pulse Nightclub and Dallas police officer ambush shootings.

The National Homeland Security Association will cover a wide range of topics and share an equally wide range of stories from the field during its conference inside the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center. The Pulse Nightclub and Dallas police ambush presentations offered its presenters and those listening a chance to consider the lessons learned.

Representatives from Dallas discussed collaboration between police, fire and emergency medical service agencies. 

"What we find, until these massive tragedies happen in various jurisdictions, is we're a little behind the curve in some of the training we need to do and make sure we have the proper equipment," said Interim Dallas Police Chief David Pughes. "We're traveling around and trying to pursue our message and make sure that agencies understand that this collaborative effort between police, fire and EMS is absolutely necessary."

Pughes called July 7, 2016 the worst day of his career. It was  the day twelve Dallas police officers were ambushed and shot - five of them fatally - while monitoring, ironically, a police protest. He spoke of that grim day during his presentation. He, along with Dallas Fire Chief David Coatney, also discussed the importance of collaboration among all agencies responding to a scene.

Last month, for example, Dallas authorities responded to an active shooter scene during which an Emergency Medical Services provider, who was there to assist a shooting victim, was also hit by gunfire.

"We have staging procedures in place. Depending on what the risk and threat is, we'll stage until law enforcement gets on the scene," Coatney said. "Obviously it depends on what the credible threat is and the officers' assessment of the scene, as far as scene safety. It doesn't do us any good for us to get injured and we become more part of the problem than the solution."

Police leaders admit they'll never be able to fully prevent attacks on the public. The means by which attackers carry out their deeds range and have changed over the years. From bombs to guns to using vehicles to target victims, police face the challenge of considering every alternative and prepare for a response.

The public, and their willingness to remain alert, is a key component of that preparedness.

"You've got to remain vigilant," said Orlando Deputy Police Chief Robert Anzueto. "You have to make sure that we use the public. The public are our eyes and ears. Law enforcement can't be at every location all the time. We rely on you. We rely on the media. We rely on the citizens of this great nation to say if something doesn't look right, pick up the phone and call us."

The conference continues through Thursday.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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