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Anticipating a visit from someone as esteemed as the Pope, El Papa, in the fifth largest American city, Philadelphia, is no minor event. The preparations are so extensive, it is mind boggling to the average citizen. Arriving for a weekend visit may not sound the trumpet, but certainly it requires nothing less. It is expected that over 2 million people will come to see the Pope in person, with many more watching remotely online and via television.


Pope Francis, or Papa Francesco in Italian, the language of the Vatican in Rome, will be visiting the city of brotherly love, Philadelphia, PA on Saturday September 26 through Sunday September 27, 2015.Photo: slate.com


His eminence coming to town, though absolutely appreciated by the volume of onlookers and admirers, unfortunately can also invite religious and political extremists, or others with their own insane agenda. The biggest fear is perhaps that of “lone wolf” terror.


The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has designated the Philadelphia papal visit as a National Special Security Event. This means that the Secret Service takes the lead in running and maintaining safety issues. However, there are 20 different subcommittees, each covering a separate area, including transportation, government and airspace.


The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has also developed a recovery plan, should a disaster befall the area. The surrounding counties have all come together and are participating with public safety officials. Both uniformed and plain clothes officers have come forward to supplement the otherwise thin Philadelphia police and federal Secret service.


The city itself has shut down, effective Thursday, with plans to eventually reopen, but not until the following Tuesday, September 29. This visit impacts every aspect of the city, from front and center, top to bottom, inside and out.


Transportation and parking restrictions, in addition to overall access to the city, have been in place since September 20th.


The Pope Francis visit impacts the city of Philadelphia including the following municipal closures:

  • City Hall

  • City Courts

  • Public Schools

  • Ben Franklin Bridge (closing Friday night)

  • Ben Franklin Parkway

  • Vine Street Expressway


Coinciding with the papal visit is the World Meeting of Families, also occurring in Philadelphia this year. The World Meeting of Families comes together every three years, since its inception in 1993 when it was created by the then Pope John Paul II.


The combined impact on Philadelphia has brought safety consultants into the city, where their services and expertise have been, unquestionably, in demand. No doubt the Pope himself is the dominant safety concern, and every stone has been turned, every nook and cranny inspected and security is on high alert. Other dignitaries are also present to meet and greet the Pope, requiring their own security details. It is not just a matter of crowd control and street closures.


College campuses in Philadelphia are also closed, most notably the University of Pennsylvania. Campus security should also be involved in safety planning, particularly where campus security issues interface with those of the city, according to one safety consultant.


Over a million visitors are anticipated to pass through the Philadelphia airport in order to participate in the papal visit and/or the World Meeting of Families. In preparation, airport personnel are being provided with a refresher course in customer service.


The Lower Makefield Police Chief Ken Coluzzi, recalled 1979 when Pope John Paul II came for a visit and he was present in uniform. This year the security preparations are “unmatched in scope and scale,” he commented.


Safety consultants expressed concern. In particular, a professor of homeland security, mentioned that the volume of road closures, to three tune of 3 square miles, major bridges and highways closed for more than 2-days, offices and businesses closed in the central city zone, he characterized as over-kill.

Safety consultants mentioned that security is best provided with circles of security surrounding, with tighter rings, closer in to the person of interest.



Lee Flynn is from the Wasatch Mountains near Salt Lake City, UT. After Lee spent years preparing himself, his home and his family, he decided he had to do more. In his free time, Lee helps educate those who want to do the same. Through small local workshops and articles, Lee trains and teaches others on home preparation, food storage techniques, wilderness survival and self reliance. After obtaining a bachelors degree from the University of Utah, Lee moved to the Salt Lake Valley where he now lives with his wife and daughter.



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