High-tech security covers GOP convention
- By Dan Verton
- Aug 07, 2000
When Texas Gov. George W. Bush received the Republican Party's nomination
last week for president of the United States, he did so under a protective
umbrella of five high-tech command centers designed to prevent and respond
to terrorist attacks or natural disasters.
Staff members from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, working
with the Secret Service, the Environmental Protection Agency and other federal,
state and local security agencies, established primary command centers in
the Philadelphia region during the convention. An alternate center was established
at Willow Grove Naval Air Station in Horsham, Pa.
The goal was to ensure a coordinated and rapid response to "nuclear, biological,
chemical and civil disturbance events, as well as potential weather-related
disaster events," according to FEMA's classified Federal Response Plan.
Officials estimated that the total number of people in and around the
First Union Center in Philadelphia would be more than 35,000. Given such
a large, compact crowd, planners placed a premium on incident reporting
and timely response coordination, according to the Federal Response Plan.
"A potential event may be terrorist- oriented and include the use of
an improvised device with conventional explosive capability or with [nuclear,
biological or chemical] capability," the plan stated. "Civil unrest, civil
disorder or crowd control, or a natural or technological disaster occurring
anywhere within the metropolitan Philadelphia area may compound the situation
and incident response."
Security officials began to set up the high-tech monitoring effort on
July 28 — three days before the convention. One of the primary sites established
was the Secret Service's Multi-Agency Communication Center (MACC). The
EPA and Secret Service officials staffed the MACC around-the-clock during
A Secret Service spokesman said the agency devised the MACC concept
during the 1997 presidential inauguration. "We put all of these agency representatives
in one location, gave them access to a gigantic screen and used a local-area
[and wide-area] network to link them together," the spokesman said. "So
when something happens, everybody captures it at the same time, which eliminates
questions about who to contact, because everybody knows about it."