Emergency drill unites agencies
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.
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.
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.