Emergency training vital, available
Shootings in schools receive a lot of attention from the news media but over the past 30 years acts of violence in businesses and churches involving guns rank just as high, members of the Eastern Maumee Bay Chamber of Commerce were informed Thursday.
Lt. Phil Cook, of the Toledo Police Department, said companies should consider ALICE (Alert Lockdown Inform Counter Evacuate) training for their personnel as it can be tailored for “any venue where people gather.”
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Instead of locking down a building and waiting for police to arrive, ALICE focuses on a more pro-active response.
After the shootings in December 2012 at Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Connecticut, school officials across the country began to “pull their heads out of the sand” and re-evaluate their emergency response plans, Lt. Cook said.
The Toledo Police Department began changing its response tactics after the 1999 shootings in Columbine, Colorado, he said.
Today, the ALICE Training Institute is headquartered in Medina, O. and Ohio is recognized as a leader in the training.
Paul Mullen, Assistant Chief of the Oregon Fire Department, said his department is adopting ALICE training along with members of the city’s police department.
He said there is a trend for emergency medical service personnel to ‘move into hot zones” to treat injured persons rather than wait for buildings or sites to be completely secured.
City officials have been discussing the purchase of five more tornado sirens, he said, referring to problems with sirens not sounding when a tornado swept through the area last November.
He urged chamber members to consider purchasing weather radios to receive alerts. Sirens, he said, are an alarm system for people who are outside.
Northwood Fire Chief Joel Whitmore and Lake Township Police Chief Mark Hummer told the chamber that area departments have put a premium on mutual assistance.
“We rely heavily on mutual automatic aid agreements,” Whitmore said, adding the Northwood department has such agreements with Rossford, Lake Township and the Allen-Clay fire departments and is working on an agreement with the department in Perrysburg.
Area departments have also upgraded their communications equipment and aren’t hampered as much as they were when they used systems with different frequencies.
“We’ve come a long way with that,” Whitmore said.
Business owners should have plans in place to address disaster scenarios and his department offers free CPR and fire extinguisher training.
The response to the June 2010 tornado that so heavily damaged Lake Township exemplifies the level of cooperation between agencies, Hummer said.
Urban Search and Rescue teams from Cleveland and Toledo were in the township within hours. In all, 39 police departments and more than 80 fire departments responded in the days after the tornado hit.
“Together we can handle anything,” he said. “Regionalism is where it’s at. From the smallest village to the largest city. We work together.”
He said police and fire departments in northern Wood County have aligned their radio systems with the Lucas County system – a move that allows them to communicate with agencies throughout the state.
Det. Jeff Goetz, of the Walbridge Police Department, said his department’s decision to utilize social media like Facebook has helped both with crime solving and alerting the public to emergencies.
Walbridge may be a small village but its proximity to rail yards make it a potential target for terrorism, he said.
He called tanker cars a potential bomb and said officers frequently conduct foot patrols along train tracks.
“We have to be pretty vigilant watching those train tracks,” he said.