York is aware, state steps up security after Paris attacks

Julia Scheib

Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris spurred increased vigilance among Pennsylvania’s public safety agencies, but York area officials aren’t requesting the assistance being sought in other parts of the state, said Pennsylvania Office of Homeland Security Director Marcus Brown.
“Right now, we’re not getting any reports of threats to any locations in Pennsylvania relating to what happened in Paris,” Brown said.
But public safety agencies and state government have stepped up efforts to spread awareness about vigilance and emergency preparedness throughout the state. 
“Since Friday, the governor has been in constant contact with public safety organizations — Homeland 
Security, PEMA (Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency), state police and the National Guard,” Brown said.
A key aspect of emergency preparedness and security is communication. 
At the state police headquarters outside Harrisburg, the state has created a Fusion Center, where concerns such as bomb threats are funneled and then assigned to relevant entities across the state.
Areas of concern: The Office of Homeland Security and other state agencies regularly back up local law enforcement agencies.
The agencies must prioritize, focusing on the most vulnerable areas, highly visible venues that could serve as targets, Brown said.
The coordinated series of bombings and shootings in France targeted a concert hall, restaurants and a stadium where a soccer game was being played. The militant group ISIS claimed responsibility.
“They always talk on the news about soft targets — cafes, theaters,” Brown said.
A recent training symposium at King of Prussia Mall was held to ensure that all security entities and businesses were sharing information, he said.
In the wake of the Paris attacks, “stadiums and public venues are the areas of greatest concern,” he said. 
The stadium in Pittsburgh where the Steelers play requested more manpower from state agencies, he said.
So state police provided a SWAT team, “aviation assets” — a helicopter — and extra patrol officers with K-9s, he said.
York: Locally, there doesn’t seem to be much worry. 
Paul Braverman, spokesman for the York Revolution, said no policy changes are imminent as a result of the attacks in Paris. No large events are scheduled for the stadium for the next few weeks, and the baseball team is finished playing for the year. 
“Any time we have a game here, we have a thorough bag check up front and there’s always a police presence,” he said.
York agencies haven’t requested state backup relating to terrorism concerns, Brown said.
York County spokesman Carl Lindquist said he’s “not personally aware of any (heightened security efforts) within the county.” 
Lindquist said the county government hasn’t been advised of any private organizations doing anything differently. Private organizations aren’t required to inform the county government of such changes, though, he said.
York County Sheriff Richard Keuerleber said the events in Paris and other terrorist attacks serve as reminders that something similar could happen near them and make people consider whether they’re prepared. 
The sheriff’s office has been “proactive,” keeping emergency policies and procedures up to date as well as doing exercises and training county employees what to do in the event of a terror attack or an active shooter situation, he said. 
“We’re always on alert here. We’ve been training with the U.S. Marshals for two years now,” Keuerleber said.
Ralph DeSantis, communications manager at Three Mile Island nuclear generating station, said Sunday the facility is in constant communication with federal and state security organizations.
“At Three Mile Island we have a comprehensive security program in place, with highly trained security officers,” he said.
Report worries: Anyone can report concerns to the center. The statewide tip line, which is attended 24/7, is (888) 292-1919.
State police also have a smartphone app to help citizens report suspicious activity. 
The “See Something, Send Something” app is available at no cost for iPhone and Android users.
Users can send pictures or text via the app, Brown said.
— Reach Julia Scheib at jscheib@yorkdispatch.com.

U.S. President Barack Obama gestures to journalists following a news conference at the end of the G-20 summit in Antalya, Turkey, Monday, Nov. 16, 2015. The Paris terror attacks have sparked widespread calls from congressional Republicans to end or limit U.S. refugee admissions from Syria, with some threatening to use critical spending legislation as leverage weeks from a must-pass deadline. That could allow Republicans to block Obama’s goal of bringing 10,000 more Syrian refugees to the U.S. during this budget year.
Richard Keuerleber