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New York City’s top disaster planner and fire department chief isn’t planning for another 9-11. He’s preparing for something far worse – nukes.

Chief Joseph Pfiefer, speaking to a panel of security experts this week, said a terror attack employing crude nuclear weapons or dirty bombs is a scenario the Fire Department of New York is currently training to address.

“It’s the training we do that’ll make the difference between who gets saved and who doesn’t get saved,” Pfeifer said.

The chief sees the skyscrapers of lower Manhattan as the most likely and most worrisome target. A crude nuclear bomb there would result in as many as 225,000 casualties, Pfiefer estimates. Another troubling scenario has terrorists using a radioactive incendiary device, or RID, on an upper floor of one of the city’s many high rises. The RID would create a rapidly expanding fire that could rapidly engulf the building in flames, making it virtually impossible to extinguish or to evacuate.

Pfiefer sees the RID scenario as causing a replay of the World Trade Center collapse.

“The fire caused the buildings to collapse, and that’s where it became a catastrophic event,” Pfeifer said. “It’s the same thing with an RID.”

FDNY is developing a $17 million command center to coordinate the department’s response in another large-scale disaster. And, Pfiefer says, nearly 3,000 firefighters have now been trained as hazardous material specialists. Every fire unit is equipped with devices that monitor and combat radiation, reports New York Daily News.

“If an improvised nuclear device goes off … it will be horrific, but we can survive,” says Pfeifer.

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