County EMA trains for crisis

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 25, 2007

LINDEN &8212; Under the watchful eye of Lee Helms Associates, a contract evaluation company, local law enforcement and first responders were tested on their emergency situation skills by performing simulated shooting and bomb scenarios at Marengo Academy Wednesday.

According to EMA Director Kevin McKinney, they do these drills in order to improve their management of crisis situations. He said previously Marengo County simulated hazardous materials and also wrecks in different locations.

The last time officials attempted to simulate a school situation was on May 1, the same day of a large train wreck occurring near Myrtlewood in which a train carrying rocket fuel cells derailed. McKinney said they were called away and had to cancel the drill.

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McKinney said department heads had been involved with a pre-planning session for the simulation, but not all of the deputies were notified in advance about it.

After recruiting the help of Interim Linden Police Chief Scott McClure and Linden Fire Chief James Creel to direct a security checkpoint and suiting up several student volunteers in victim attire &8212; wounds complete with fake blood and body parts &8212; the drill began with a &8220;fake&8221; call to 911.

Helms&8217; staff placed the call saying there was an unknown situation with multiple injured victims at the school. Within minutes, a Linden Police officer and Marengo County Sheriff&8217;s deputies were on the scene, followed by an ambulance minutes later.

A second call to 911 indicated a man with a gun was seen entering the gymnasium. As more officials arrived on the scene, several &8220;victims&8221; had been taken to the triage center in the ambulance.

After more victims were identified and taken care of, officials assessed the situation just as they would in a real-life scenario.

McKinney explained the &8220;gunman&8221; was to hold hostages in the weight room and officers would be required to negotiate with him in order to release them unharmed. After 30 minutes, the gunman was taken into custody and sent to the ambulance after sustaining a simulated gunshot wound.

Deputies were also tested on their ability to disarm a bomb and diffuse the situation. According to McKinney, all weapons used in the simulation were checked and disarmed so there would be no live weapons used during the drill.

After simulation was complete, Helms and his associates performed what is known as a &8220;hot wash,&8221; where participants critiqued the simulation.