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Disaster training session provides learning info

By Dana Casadei

Over the summer the Bloomfield Township police and fire departments came together to do a live scenario at Bloomfield Hills High School for a mass casualty training, and reported their findings at the board of trustees meeting on Monday, January 22.

The live training scenario at Bloomfield Hills High School – which took nearly a year to plan – took place over the course of a few hours, bringing together over 600 district staff and teachers who participated; as well as nursing students; 50 law enforcement personnel from 12 agencies; and 35 fire personal from seven OAKWAY fire departments.

“I couldn’t have been happier…yeah, we had some flaws there, but we can strive for perfection, and as long as we strive for it, we’re going to do it right,” said Bloomfield Township Police Chief James Gallagher, “We can always learn.”

The goal of this type of training is to see how ready police and fire personnel would be in a similar situation, testing responses over the course of the first two hours of an active situation. This was also a fluid training, so the decisions of the participants determined the outcomes.

While difficult, Gallagher said they were still able to recreate some of the stress and emotions that would be likely to happen in an active shooter situation, but mentioned it’s nearly impossible to create that in full.

There were a plethora of safety precautions put into place before the training scenario even began, making sure the area had a perimeter that was searched and taped off; having proctors accompany active participants; and all weapons used had blanks and tags on them to indicate they had been checked.

The training scenario began with a 911 call from a school liaison who told them there was a suspicious male with a rifle near the football team. From there, the rest of the scenario played out as would an actual shooter situation, something both departments train for, and have for the last decade.

They were able to neutralize the threat within seven minutes.

“Overall, it was a really excellent response time,” Gallagher said. “I’m confident in our ability if this was to happen.”

This exercise also strengthened the partnership with the school, which was among the many who reported back that this training session – one of the biggest of its kind in the area – was incredibly informative.

Even though there was plenty that went well, both chiefs said that multiple areas of improvement were found for each department.

Gallagher said that they learned there wasn’t consistent terminology between the two departments; some sites were two close together; and one of the biggest takeaways was recognizing the importance of evacuating building administrators, who know the building better than anyone, but in this scenario, stayed hidden for over an hour before they could come out.

Fire chief John LeRoy, the training showed him that the fire department needs to make some changes and stop solely focusing on rescue task force, but instead put the appropriate personnel in command positions. They also need to get more personnel inside with equipment and get people off site faster to take less away from patient care, Leroy said.

There was also some major issues with how the hospitals were notified.

After going through their areas of improvement, trustee Chris Kolinski, a firefighter, thanked them for their work and their honesty about what they could have done better too.

“You don’t know you don’t know until we have it, so being honest about it and making it better just makes our township have the best services available,” he said.

LeRoy said they hope to continue doing one of these live training sessions each year moving forward, not just at schools, but in other large venues as well.


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