Multi-Agency Training Prepares Responders for Major Incident Response
Boise, May 5, 2008 - Boise Police, Boise Fire, Ada County EMS and Ada County Dispatch have completed the largest training exercise ever for Boise City responders. And the most important lesson is, if a major incident were to occur in the city, emergency workers are ready to coordinate response and work together to save lives.
Approx. 200 emergency responders went through ten emergency scenarios played out late Sunday night and early Monday morning at the Boise Towne Square Mall. The training involved a worst-case scenario, an active shooter with multiple injuries to citizens. Boise Police, Fire and EMS responded as if the situation was real. Officers practiced tactical maneuvers designed to quickly locate the suspect and stop the threat. Officers then worked with Fire and EMS to get medical attention quickly to the injured.
"One of the biggest lessons learned tonight is, we're ready should something big occur, and hopefully that's reassuring to the citizens of Boise," said Capt. Eugene Smith of the Boise Bench Patrol Division, and organizer of the massive training exercise. "We had a few glitches, which we knew we would. But our people are trained to work them out, overcome obstacles and get the job done, and that's what we saw tonight."
At the beginning of the exercise, a communication's issue, which turned out to be a technical glitch discovered in dispatch, caused a 45 minute delay. Dispatchers were able to overcome the problem and technical communication issues were not an issue for the duration of the training.
"From a police point of view, our officers are learning how to multi-task," said Boise Police Chief Michael Masterson. "Not only how to go in, find the threat and stop it, but how to to provide security to our emergency medical teams from Fire and EMS as well."
"I was very proud how well everyone worked together," said Boise Fire Chief Dennis Doan. "I thought there might be more glitches, but when the teams went in, they all worked together. I'm very proud of all our responders. I feel we're prepared."
Managers at the Boise Towne Square Mall actually approached Boise Police and offered their property as a training site. The location proved extremely valuable.
"We feel our customers are very safe and what we saw tonight just reinforced that," said Mike Enslow, General Manager with General Growth Properties, the company that manages Idaho's largest and busiest shopping center. "The best part of tonight was watching the agencies come together as one group. They did a very good job doing what they do well every day."
"It's incredibly valuable to have a large, complex location like the mall to train in. We appreciate mall management very much," said Chief Masterson. "In reality, the lessons learned here tonight will easily carry over into any major facility in Boise, from schools, to government buildings, to sports venues, the airport, wherever."
"So many times we work out exercises on a table top. To really be able to go in and work together under the stress of a real incident, with shots being fired, it's a great training benefit," said Chief Doan.
Goals of the training included:
- To practice and evaluate the ability of Boise’s first responders to manage an incident that requires immediate, coordinated action, with the goal of saving lives.
- To strengthen and test inter-agency cooperation and communication, including use of the new 700 mgh radio system.
- To identify areas where additional training, equipment, or procedures may be improved.
Officers involved in the training used air soft pellet guns and shotgun blanks to simulate real activity. No mall employees or customers were inside the mall during the training. And as a courtesy to those living near the mall or guests in nearby hotels, emergency responders did not use sirens, but only activated their overheads lights during the training.
Communication issues initially did jump out to evaluators as the first issue to continue to work on, both communications technology and responders communication skills.
"Communications are always the biggest issue in something like this," said Capt. Smith. "Communication is an area we train in constantly and will continue to work on, both with our equipment and how well our people use the equipment."
Boise Police, Boise Fire, and Ada County EMS are part of a multi-agency group that meets together monthly and trains together quarterly. Communications and other possible areas for improvement identified at tonight's mall exercise will be scheduled as part of the groups upcoming training priorities.
"Having all the agencies come together for a training exercise this large already makes it a huge success," said Capt. Smith from Boise Police. "This is something all our agencies can build on for the future, because we all have the same goal, and that's making sure citizens who live, work, shop or play in Boise stay safe."