Homeland Security official visits city to discuss response to potential threats

Gary Rasicot, acting assistant secretary of the Department of Homeland Security’s Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office, speaks to a reporter at the Federal Air Marshall field office in Atlanta on Wednesday, August 3, 2022. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

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Gary Rasicot, acting assistant secretary of the Department of Homeland Security’s Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office, speaks to a reporter at the Federal Air Marshall field office in Atlanta on Wednesday, August 3, 2022. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Visit focused on detecting and preventing biological, nuclear or radiological threats

Making sure Atlanta first responders have everything they need to deal with any biological, nuclear or radiological threat is the main priority of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which visited the city this week to meet with local leaders.

DHS Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office Assistant Acting Secretary Gary Rasicot meet with Atlanta emergency responders, as well as Georgia Bureau of Investigation and Georgia Department of Public Health, this week to discuss threats to the area and anything local agencies need to deal with them.

“When you are talking about chemical, nuclear or biological threats, it takes specialized expertise, training and that’s what we are here to provide,” Rasicot said. “We are very pleased to partner with the city of Atlanta on this and provide this service for them.”

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A US Department of Homeland Security official showcases equipment used by local first responders for nuclear, radiological or biological threat in Atlanta on Wednesday, August 3, 2022. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

A US Department of Homeland Security official showcases equipment used by local first responders for nuclear, radiological or biological threat in Atlanta on Wednesday, August 3, 2022. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Combined ShapeCaption
A US Department of Homeland Security official showcases equipment used by local first responders for nuclear, radiological or biological threat in Atlanta on Wednesday, August 3, 2022. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Atlanta is part of two DHS programs, Securing the Cities, which helps cities detect and prevent nuclear or radiological threats, and BioWatch, which helps detect and prevent biological threats. Rasicot said department officials try to meet with every jurisdiction in the program.

“While our programs are national and federal in nature, they are locally executed. No city is the same, so you need to get out and talk to the people that are on the ground doing it to make sure you are providing them what they need,” he said. “Before something happens, we strive to make sure they are as prepared as possible to detect threats and respond to them before they actually become something.”

As the home of the world’s busiest airport and the CDC and host to major events, Atlanta must be prepared, Rasicot said.

“We work hard to make sure all of your local first responders have the information they need, the equipment they need and the training they need, long before the events occur,” he said.

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Brian Kuleski, Department of Homeland Security division director for the mobile detection deployment program, poses in Atlanta with a device that monitors gamma and nuclear radiation on Wednesday, August 3, 2022. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Brian Kuleski, Department of Homeland Security division director for the mobile detection deployment program, poses in Atlanta with a device that monitors gamma and nuclear radiation on Wednesday, August 3, 2022. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Combined ShapeCaption
Brian Kuleski, Department of Homeland Security division director for the mobile detection deployment program, poses in Atlanta with a device that monitors gamma and nuclear radiation on Wednesday, August 3, 2022. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Brian Kuleski, division director for DHS’ mobile detection program, said being able to provide high-tech equipment to local jurisdictions helps address potential threats.

“It’s good for us to be mindful of what is out there in the environment, and we need to always be proactive trying to prevent something from happening,” he said.

Rasicot said DHS provides millions of dollars of funding through grants to local jurisdictions.

“The dedication shown by first responders in this city, every resident should be proud,” he said. These guys want to do a good job, want to make sure they have the best equipment and the best knowledge to do a good job. They are all in, in protecting Atlanta.”