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Phoenix hosts annual National Homeland Security conference

(KTAR News/Ali Vetnar)

PHOENIX — Phoenix served as the host of the 13th annual National Homeland Security Conference, bringing together over a thousand participants to learn about evolving trends in homeland security.

First responders and other professionals from across the country had the opportunity to see new equipment and technology supporting their mission.

“Phoenix is really a great city to come to,” Jonathan Schultz, Board President for conference told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Wednesday. “We are working to be the best prepared for all our citizens in this great nation.”

One of Arizona’s largest public safety agencies, Phoenix Fire, was heavily represented during the conference.

Capt. Rob McDade said it was a huge honor for Phoenix to be selected to host such an elite homeland security conference.

As for what the Phoenix Fire was most eager to share with the conference’s attendees, it was their radios.

Why does that matter so much? In the event of a school shooting or other mass emergencies, Phoenix Fire says they need their fire fighters and medics ready to offer aid but need to know when an area is safe for them.

These linked radios allow them to work hand in hand with police during incidents that are still active.

“We are learning,” McDade said. “We’ve learned from 9/11 and we are continuing to come together from across the nation to better take care of our communities when it comes to terrorism threats.”

During this week’s conference, Phoenix Fire hoped to learn from other cities around the country that have held several large-scale events.

“With another Super Bowl and NCAA Final Four headed Phoenix’s way, we want to hear from Veteran cities that have held four or five of these massive events,” McDade said. “What was their security like? How did they bring in surrounding cities to help them?”

Lisa Jones, director of Phoenix’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, said she believes Phoenix’s biggest threat is the lone wolf, or someone who takes action on their own.

She said threats are always changing and of the newest is cybersecurity.

“Cyber affects everything,” Jones said. “Really the biggest thing we’re working on now is to say, ‘What is our cyber response? What is the fallout likely to be?’ and then, ‘How will we manage it?'”

On Wednesday, Phoenix authorities conducted a public safety training exercise in the heart of downtown simulating a mock terrorist attack.

In the mock attack, Phoenix officials and first responders were said to have ‘intel’ on a group of home-grown domestic terrorists that were planning an attack on local hospitals. The hospitals simulated through the Phoenix Convention Center and surrounding buildings.

During the exercise, bystanders could see SUVs, SWAT vehicles and other unmarked police cars barreling down Third Street pursuing the fake terrorists.

Once the vehicles had all stopped in front of the convention center, helicopters landed in the intersection of Third and Jefferson streets to drop off additional SWAT members, then took off again to circle the area above.

Phoenix Fire’s Hazmat crews as well as Phoenix’s Bomb Squad and robot were also used during the planned training.

“This is a true exercise for us,” Jones said. “We get to show off our assets, but this is just another example of our training that goes on.”

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