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Testing Bioterrorism in the New York Subway System

Phil Pulaski

Phil Pulaski has 36 years of law enforcement experience, and was Chief of Detectives of the NYPD for more than 5 years where he was responsible for 3,600 personnel. During his 33 year career with the NYPD, Phil Pulaski managed patrol, investigative, counterterrorism, community affairs, quality of life, traffic and other public safety operations.

In the immediate aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Phil Pulaski managed the NYPD’s counterterrorism and weapons of mass destruction operations. He also supervised, together with his FBI counterpart, numerous terrorism related investigations including the 9-11 World Trade Center attack and October 2001 anthrax attacks. During the October 2001 anthrax attack, Phil Pulaski served as personal advisor to Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik regarding bioterrorism issues, and implemented numerous bioterrorism related programs. Subsequently as commanding officer of the Counterterrorism Bureau, Phil Pulaski was responsible for coordinating the NYPD’s Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosives detection, crime scene, epidemiologic, investigative and laboratory operations.
Five letters filled with a small amount of anthrax were mailed to politicians and journalists shortly after the airplane attacks of September 11, 2001, in New York. Five people died from exposure and another 17 were infected in the following weeks. Bioterrorism is insidious partly because it is more difficult to trace than other forms of terrorism and extensive damage can be done and a significant number of people can be killed before the biological weapon attack is discovered.
The NYPD and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have been studying bioterrorism in several ways since 2001. The NYPD released a non-toxic gas into the subway system in 2013 to see what they could learn about the city’s preparedness in the case of another bioterrorism attack. In 2016 DHS tried this again by testing non-toxic gases every day for a week. DHS wanted to see how quickly the gases would spread, where they would go, and what might be done in the event that toxic gases are introduced into the system. Researchers were able to use state-of-the-art technology to track and collect the gases, identifying which ones came from where using a particle identification tool called DNATrax.

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