With the papal visit looming, officials in Montgomery County held a series of sessions with faith leaders Wednesday that focused on emergency preparedness while police prepared to use special security cameras to ensure safety.
“We are especially thrilled that (Pope Francis) has chosen Montgomery County as the place to sleep when he is here, we call it the ‘Home Away From Rome,’” said Montgomery County commissioner Josh Shapiro. “We want to make sure that everybody’s mind is at ease and that we can enjoy this wonderful event for what it is.”
While there are no credible threats, the county urged awareness as they handed out emergency preparedness information to religious leaders and also gave those leaders the chance to meet county leaders.
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“What is it that we can do to ensure that the people that walk into our churches that walk into our churches, our temples, our mosques, our synagogues are safe and secure,” said Shapiro.
Shapiro and other county officials met with religious leaders to talk about safety measures. The meeting comes ahead of Pope Francis’ visit (and stay) in Montgomery County next month and after the recent church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina.
The event at the county’s Emergency Operations Center in Eagleville, Pennsylvania dealt with the roles taken on during a disaster response. They also promoted their “ReadyMontco” notification system and social media accounts.
The health department also has a plan in place for the papal visit, said commissioner Said Dr. Val Arkoosh.
“I can assure you that we are looking at this visit very carefully from all sorts of health issues that could potentially be challenging,” said Arkoosh.
The goal was to make people feel safer not only in their house of worship but also in their communities.
Arkoosh said part of the plan included better communication between departments.
Police could have a new tool as well during the papal visit as live, mobile web cams – made by a Bucks County company – are dispatched on both sides of the Delaware River.
SEPTA and DRPA officers already expected to use the cameras, made by SENTRY, during the Pope visit. The cams, which can also be placed on top of vehicles – like they were at the s Open in Merion and during the Broad Street Run -- and monitored wirelessly.