Emer­gency drill unites agen­cies

Record Observer - - Front Page - By HAN­NAH COMBS hcombs@kibay­times.com

CENTREVILLE — Prac­tice, prac­tice, prac­tice — that was the mind­set of the agen­cies gath­ered Satur­day, June 11, for an ac­tive as­sailant drill at the Lib­erty Building in down­town Centreville. The Centreville Po­lice De­part­ment, county De­part­ment of Emer­gency Ser­vices, Emer­gency Man­age­ment, Fire and EMS Com­mis­sion, Mary­land State Po­lice, Of­fice of the Sher­iff and Queen Anne’s County SWAT team par­tic­i­pated in con­junc­tion with Pub­lic Works and other al­lied agen­cies to com­plete a drill sim­u­lat­ing the re­sponse to a dan­ger­ous sce­nario.

Led by the county’s emer­gency man­age­ment di­vi­sion, first re­spon­ders com­pleted a full-scale ac­tive as­sailant ex­er­cise that tested the re­sponse, co­or­di­na­tion and plans of lo­cal law en­force­ment, fire and EMS agen­cies. The var­i­ous agen­cies re­sponded as a drill to the re­port of a pos­si­bly armed sub­ject lo­cated in­side the Lib­erty Building with mul­ti­ple gun­shot vic­tims. Signs mark­ing the en­trances of the Lib­erty Building and on the streets ad­ja­cent sig­ni­fied to the pub­lic that a drill was tak­ing place. No­tices were also posted on­line and on var­i­ous county de­part­ment web­sites so the pub­lic would be aware ahead of time the ex­er­cise would take place Satur­day morn­ing.

“This ex­er­cise is a great way for all agen­cies that would be in­volved in a large emer­gency re­sponse to work to­gether in a safe en­vi­ron­ment. It is also a chance for ev­ery­one to test their poli­cies and pro­ce­dures and im­prove on them,” said Scott Haas, Emer­gency Ser­vices director.

The ven­dor that qual­i­fied the emer­gency ser­vices ex­er­cise, spon­sored by a fed­eral grant through Home­land Security, was As­cent­tra. As­cent­tra is a third-party that as­sists in over­see­ing the drill and fo­cus­ing on cer­tain cri­te­ria es­sen­tial to Home­land Security.

“It is es­sen­tial to co­or­di­nate com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween law en­force­ment and EMS and other pub­lic safety per­son­nel,” said Centreville Po­lice De­part­ment Chief, Charles Rhodes. “With this drill we are at­tempt­ing to be proactive and make cer­tain that if and when need be we can com­mu­ni­cate ef fec­tively be­tween all our agen­cies.”

Dave Rivett, Emer­gency Man­age­ment plan­ner for Queen Anne’s County, said it is al­ways a good idea to train and be as well pre­pared as pos­si­ble in the event of an ac­tual emer­gency. Another pur­pose be­hind the ex­er­cise on Satur­day was to re­view di­rect com­mu­ni­ca­tion op­er­a­tions be­tween all agen­cies and make cer­tain they were able to ef­fec­tively com­mu­ni­cate with each other, with cen­tral dis­patch serv­ing as a backup if needed, Rivett said.

The ex­er­cise re­quired a huge com­mit­ment on the part of the sher­iff and Centreville Po­lice De­part­ment, Rivett added, as well as the vol­un­teers, De­part­ment of EMS and state in­volve­ment.

Rivett and County Com­mis­sioner Jack Wil­son also dis­cussed po­ten­tial ways to make county build­ings more se­cure and pro­mote pub­lic safety aware­ness.

First Sgt. Wes­ley For­chion, Mary­land State Po­lice Spe­cial Op­er­a­tions, par­tic­i­pated as an eval­u­a­tor at the re­quest of Lt/ Tim McDon­ald, Centreville Bar­racks com­man­der. For­chion had par­tic­i­pated in the table­top ex­er­cise and said he was pleased to lend his ex­per­tise to the drill. He noted the im­por­tance of the agen­cies be­ing able to work to­gether to de­velop a strate­gic plan.

Rivett also said these types of ex­er­cises are a good way for in­di­vid­ual agency poli­cies and pro­to­cols to be re­fined, adding that each of the agen­cies had trained many times within their own de­part­ments, but com­bin­ing mul­ti­ple agen­cies pro­vided an even more re­al­is­tic sce­nario.

The pa­tients and by­standers who vol­un­teered to par­tic­i­pate in the drill were lo­cal res­i­dents and fam­ily mem­bers. They, too, were briefed on the roles they would be play­ing and made up us­ing a tech­nique called moulage, the art of ap­ply­ing mock in­juries for the pur­pose of train­ing.

Fol­low­ing the ex­er­cise, lunch was of­fered at Good­will Vol­un­teer Fire Com­pany, which served as host.

Eval­u­a­tors from As­cent­tra gave the group high re­marks fol­low­ing the drill, prais­ing the quick­ness with which the building was se­cured and pa­tients evac­u­ated for emer­gency treat­ment. They ob­served that a uni­fied com­mand was also quickly es­tab­lished and that co­or­di­na­tion be­tween mul­ti­ple agen­cies went very well.

Queen Anne’s County Com­mis­sioner Steve Wil­son noted that the county is ac­tively pre­par­ing and plan­ning for any event they think might oc­cur within the county, in­clud­ing hur­ri­canes, floods, other nat­u­ral dis­as­ters, and school and pub­lic safety pro­ce­dures in the event of un­law­ful or oth­er­wise dan­ger­ous ac­tiv­ity.

“Our goal is to have the best emer­gency plan in the state,” Wil­son said.

On June 11, a very real tragedy with a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion un­folded in Orlando, Fla.

“The event in Orlando is a hor­rific re­minder that no com­mu­nity is im­mune from do­mes­tic ter­ror at­tacks,” said Haas, “It is the re­spon­si­bil­ity of pub­lic safety of­fi­cials and lo­cal gov­ern­ment to en­sure the pre­pared­ness

of its re­spon­ders. Queen Anne’s County ac­com­plished this through a se­ries of drills, a func­tional ex­er­cise and a full-scale ex­er­cise over the last six months, in­clud­ing the one Satur­day.

“I feel the ex­er­cise [we just com­pleted] was a huge suc­cess and we all walked away with a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing how to work with one another in a chaotic sce­nario. The more we pre­pare the more seam­less our re­sponse will be, should disas­ter strike,” Haas added.

Com­mis­sioner Jack Wil­son said, “I think in light of the Florida in­ci­dent, these ex­er­cises have be­come even more im­por­tant to make sure all our agen­cies work seam­lessly to­gether to help min­i­mize ca­su­al­ties and quickly take con­trol of a tragic sit­u­a­tion.”

Multi-agency train­ing ex­er­cise con­cludes Satur­day af­ter­noon with a wrap up ses­sion and lunch at the Good­will Fire Com­pany.

PHOTOS BY HAN­NAH COMBS

Centreville Po­lice De­part­ment of­fi­cers re­spond to the Lib­erty Building dur­ing a train­ing ex­er­cise for an ac­tive shooter sce­nario.

An ac­tor vol­un­teer por­trays a shoot­ing vic­tim dur­ing the emer­gency ser­vices ex­er­cise held at the Lib­erty Building in Centreville, Satur­day, June 11.

From left, Queen Anne’s County Com­mu­nity Af­fairs Director Faith El­liott-Ross­ing and County Com­mis­sion­ers Steve Wil­son and Jack Wil­son at­tend the emer­gency ser­vices ex­er­cise in Centreville.

PHOTOS BY HAN­NAH COMBS

Po­lice of­fi­cers ini­ti­ate an evac­u­a­tion and security perime­ter around the Lib­erty Building dur­ing an emer­gency ex­er­cise, Satur­day, June 11, 2016.

Sign next to the Lib­erty Building dur­ing the emer­gency ser­vices ex­er­cise, Satur­day, June 11, 2016.

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