N.D. responders practice for disaster


 
 

Susanne Nadeau Amanda RickerGrand Forks Herald | | Tuesday, June 26, 2007


GRAND FORKS, N.D. Grand Forks Central High School was the site of school shootings, found explosive devices and a hazardous material spill all in one day as part of a training exercise for local emergency responders and school officials.

More than 50 law enforcement and emergency responders worked Tuesday to fine-tune communications between their departments and the Grand Forks Public School system, in case anything ever goes awry.

Grand Forks police officers, including members of the department's Special Operations groups the SWAT team and Bomb Squad county Sheriff's Department officers, firefighters, Altru ambulance EMT's, as well as Grand Forks Air Force Base and school officials were at the high school from about 10 a.m. to about 5 p.m. Tuesday. Officials ran different exercises, including a school shooting scenario, a hostage situation and the search for two explosive devices within the building.

Communication is key

The run-through of various situations was meant to identify any glitches that might exist between agencies as they respond to an emergency situation on school grounds. Law enforcement officials videotaped the exercises.

"Nothing stood out," said Lt. Mark Nelson of the Grand Forks Police Department, who was in charge of the training exercise. "All functional areas are talking."

A focal point for Tuesday's training session was the incident command center, where officials who have the authority to make decisions gathered.

During an emergency situation, it's important that all areas talk to each other, Nelson said.

One of the largest training sessions the Police Department has staged, Tuesday's exercise takes response to school emergencies one step further than a similar exercise at Red River High School in 2005.

The exercise at Red River focused on the initial response to an emergency situation. Tuesday's session focused on communication between departments, as well as refining and testing initial response techniques from each agency.

Thirty volunteers, including students and teachers, played the roles of victims; many were acting wounded, and some even were exposed (as part of the training session) to hazardous materials only to be hosed down by the department's hazardous materials team. Public access was limited around the training site to keep it as realistic as possible.

The minor issues will be addressed, he said, though he didn't know what those might be. Each team has evaluations to fill out, and any issues would be team-specific, Nelson said. Overall, the exercise was positive.

About 30 Grand Forks Public School officials, including each principal of the district's 18 schools, participated in the training exercise, said Jody Thompson, assistant superintendent of elementary education.

Several new security items at the school came in handy.

Thompson said school principals were able to watch SWAT team members react to mock emergencies from the auditorium with the school's new surveillance camera system, he said. Also, two-way radios allowed better communication.

School officials have asked the School Board to purchase more two-way radios and an automated calling system.

An automated calling system would allow school officials to notify parents, media and community members within minutes of an incident by phone, e-mail and pager, Thompson said.

School officials could tell parents the "reunification" site where they could pick up their children, he said. Parents are asked not to come to the school in the event of an incident. Each school's assigned reunification site is published in its fall newsletter. At Central High, the site is nearby St. Michael's Catholic School.

An automated calling system would cost the district $30,000 a year, Thompson said. Additional two-way radios would cost about $15,000, he said.

School officials practiced working in the incident command center, where emergency decisions are made, for the first time Tuesday, Thompson said. They had not done that in the Red River High School exercise two years ago, he said.

Practicing the basic decision-making procedures will prepare school officials to think on their feet should a crisis arise, Thompson said.

School officials plan to continue doing the drill every two years, Thompson said. Next time, it may be held at a middle school or elementary school, since it already has been done at two high schools.




Connect: Have a thought or feedback about this? Add your comment now
Related Topics: Industry News, Natural Disasters, Special Operations, WMD and Terrorism, Training

What's Your Take? Comment Now ...

Featured Careers & Jobs in EMS





 

Get JEMS in Your Inbox

 

Fire EMS Blogs


Blogger Browser

Today's Featured Posts

 

EMS Airway Clinic

Innovation & Progress

Follow in the footsteps of these inspirational leaders of EMS.
More >

Multimedia Thumb

Four Killed in New Mexico Medical Plane Crash

Crash near fairgrounds claims patient and crew of three.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Texas Ambulance Involved in Crash

Odessa ambulance and car collide during response.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Las Vegas Fire, AMR Reach New Deal

Tentative agreement reached over ambulance calls.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Fire Damages Several Homes in California Earthquake

Four homes destroyed and others damaged after quake rattles Napa.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Where in the World of EMS is A.J.? Scranton

JEMS Editor-in-Chief visits his hometown of Scranton, Pa.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

Over 100 Injured in California Earthquake

172 patients treated at Napa hospital after 6.0-magnitude earthquake.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

Numerous Rescues during Arizona Flooding

Severe flooding across the region prompted several rescues.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

VividTrac offered by Vivid Medical - EMS Today 2013

VividTrac, affordable high performance video intubation device.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Field Bridge Xpress ePCR on iPad, Android, Kindle Fire

Sneak peek of customizable run forms & more.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Braun Ambulances' EZ Door Forward

Helps to create a safer ambulance module.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

The AmbuBus®, Bus Stretcher Conversion Kit - EMS Today 2013

AmbuBus®, Bus Stretcher all-hazards preparedness & response tool
Watch It >


More Product Videos >