Local Law Enforcement Agencies Prepare For Worst Case Scenarios

What do I love about journalism? You get to experience things I know I would never get to if I wasn't in this profession. Every time I do have the opportunity to experience something, my yearn to learn just keeps on growing... yesterday was just one of those days...

For the past five months, the Columbia and Boone County Local Emergency Planning Committee had been planning and preparing for a large scale training exercise for local law enforcement agencies. The basis of the exercise is to help prepare emergency responders for the worst possible situation they can face.

Little Dixie Construction allowed agencies to use a vacant house near a large field to conduct this exercise. Inside the house, a lab was set up, along with trip wires, a fake bomb, and pretend chemical toxins. Outside they had the decontamination area set up.

As soon as the news director offered the story to me, I took it. Learning about law enforcement and how it works has always fascinated me. I have never been to a training exercise and couldn't wait to watch them in action. While there, the PIO took the reporter and photog from KMIZ and I into the home to show us how everything worked. We had a chance to watch a million dollar, 500 pound robot move about, send information back to those outside, and even climb the stairs. Like always I learned a vast amount of information that could not be included in the story, but hopefully along with the pictures, you will get the gist of what was going on. Click here to hear the story, click here to read the story on KBIA's website or read a longer version of the story below.

Boone County law enforcement agencies are now one step closer to feeling more prepared in extreme emergency situations. A number of organizations showed up yesterday to take part in an extensive training exercise. Law enforcement agencies included the local SWAT team, the Mid-Missouri Bomb Squad, the Missouri Guard 7th Civil Support Team, the FBI, and the Columbia Fire and Police Departments. The agencies worked together to simulate an attempt to serve a warrant at a private residence. KBIA’s Tara Grimes reports.

Outside a vacant home in Boone County, about half a dozen emergency responders worked together to bandage up a bloodied victim. Just minutes earlier the responders rescued the victim inside the home. Other law enforcement quickly went through decontamination, removing any possible toxic chemicals from their hazmat suits. Nearby, operators controlled a robot searching inside of the house for
bombs, trip wires and other toxic chemicals. It was all in an effort to prepare emergency responders for the worst situations possible. The Columbia and Boone County Local Emergency Planning Committee started planning the training exercise five months ago. Columbia Fire Department Division Chief Terry Cassil calls the event a once in a career opportunity. He says he feels the exercise helped to find the strengths and weaknesses of those there.

“It allows us to make contacts, have familiar faces, know who’s capable of what sorts of things. So I think we’re much more prepared after the exercise than before,” Cassil said.

University Police Department Sergeant and Bomb Squad Technician Chris Groves says training exercises help responders get to know each other through teamwork before an emergency situation arises.

“Quite frankly we’re having a lot of fun just learning and interfacing with all the other units here,” Groves said.

Planning for these events are not simple though. Master Sergeant William Heikkila is the Communications Chief for the Weapons of Mass Destruction 7th Civil Support Team. He says his team travels around the country doing these types of exercises. He also says the planning is a long process.

“The time and the research is literally a 24-hour-a-day process,” Heikkila said. “From the time that we get on duty, we are continuously training or prepping the equipment. We have personnel that are either in school, prepping to go to school or they are doing training like this."

But in the end, Heikkila says he hopes the exercise will help in the future.

“The big thing that I hope for is a good joint exercise where all the agencies involved have learned something new and can master that skill and then take it on to the next exercise,” Heikkila said.

Departments train once a month, but events like this are rare. Tara Grimes, KBIA news.

Here are a few photos I shot while at the event:


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