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Security conference here will provide timely lessons of terror attacks

Saturday night's terrorist attack in London struck one of the world's most famous cities.

But security officials responsible for trying to prevent and respond to these types of incidents know they could happen anywhere. Cities from Manchester, England, to Dallas to Orlando have had to cope with the fallout – and assess what they could have done differently.

"The concerns and the preparation and the training and the planning go well beyond the major cities: New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco," said Daniel J. Neaverth Jr., commissioner of Erie County's Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services.

Starting Tuesday, Buffalo will host the National Homeland Security Conference, drawing 1,500 police and security experts to the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center. While the conference was long in the works, the three-day event seems all the more timely with recent attacks in Manchester and London, and a bombing in the diplomatic district in Kabul, Afghanistan.

The Buffalo Niagara region may not be as big as New York City. But it sits on an international border, with a world-famous attraction that draws millions, and with people and goods flowing in both directions.

The Buffalo area and Southern Ontario already have a strong relationship when it comes to training for security threats, Neaverth said. But he noted the bridges that span the region are only part of the security picture when it comes to safeguarding the vast U.S.-Canada border.

Just within the Buffalo area, local, county and state partners already communicate to or three times a week about security issues, and step that up when big events come to town, Neaverth said. He cited the Trump campaign rally in Buffalo as an example of how those partners work together to oversee a high-profile gathering.

But there is always more to learn, and the security conference will review some painful experiences. "It's unfortunately learning lessons at the expense of others," Neaverth said.

Among the presenters will be police officials from the Orlando area talking about the Pulse nightclub massacre that happened a year ago, and officials from a county in Georgia struck by Hurricane Matthew last October.

"The 'what happened,' everybody is pretty much familiar with," Neaverth said. But the conference can delve into what followed. "How did they respond to it, what did they feel that maybe they could do differently, what do they do differently now?"

Even regions that aren't struck by terrorist attacks or natural disasters need to be prepared. He noted a place like New York City with its vast resources relied on outside help to recover from the Sept. 11 attacks and Superstorm Sandy.

"There really does need to be that same level of training, and to a certain extent  that same level of equipping," Neaverth said. "Otherwise, you're sending mutual aid and assistance from other areas into an environment they haven't trained or planned for."

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