Law enforcement, fire, EMS train in Monticello

Jones County Sheriff’s deputies Derek Denniston (left) and Tim Smith go through the halls of Monticello Middle School June 13 during a training exercise as part of the Rescue Task Force – Hostile Event Interdiction. (Photos by Pete Temple)

Police officers, sheriff’s deputies and “victims” leave Monticello Middle School during a training exercise June 13.
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     No doubt many people noticed a flurry of activity last week surrounding Monticello Middle School and the Monticello Public Library.

     Jones County law enforcement agencies, fire, and ambulance, as well as several agencies from around Eastern Iowa were in town for unified response training. The new Jones County Emergency Management trailer that was based in the library parking lot acted as incident command. The middle school was the scene of the incident.

     Police Chief Britt Smith and Emergency Management Director Brenda Leonard said the county secured a grant from Homeland Security to host this training opportunity.

     “I brought it up about a year and a half ago,” said Smith. “It’s about unifying the police, fire and EMS in response to a critical incident like an active shooter.”

     There were roughly 30 attendees from agencies such as the Cedar Rapids Police Department, Davenport Fire, Dubuque Police, West Liberty Fire, Scott County Sheriff’s Department, Hiawatha Fire, and Linn County Sheriff’s Department; not to mention the local Jones County agencies as well.

     “A wide variety of departments attended,” said Smith.

     He said many times fire and EMS have to travel for their training opportunities, which can be difficult for many on the departments to do so and expensive. This local training brought all three Monticello departments (police, fire, and ambulance) and county together.

     “That was really the driving force when pushing for this training,” said Smith.

     Those taking part learned the tactics, techniques, and procedures specific to a unified small group response as a rescue task force during an active, hostile incident.

     The three-day training ran from June 12-14. The first day consisted of classroom-type work. The two final days were spent executing what they learned on scene.

     “It’s all about realism and practicality,” explained Smith of the scenarios. Ironically, last week, there were two active shooter incidents in the U.S.

     Establishing incident command at the library parking lot, Smith said ideally, law enforcement needs a location that keeps everyone out of harm’s way.

     “This is where tactical and critical decisions are made to guide the response team,” explained Smith.

     With the new emergency response trailer, Smith said it provided a place to work out of and congregate if needed, depending on the situation. In early May 2013, there was a gas leak on County Road X-44 outside of Monticello. Leonard provided her trailer to meet with representatives from the gas company, as well as members of the Monticello Fire Department watching the scene.

     Leonard said many times her trailer is the source of information, bringing state resources together.

     Incident command is also needed to evaluate the situation at hand and contact available resources.

     Everyone who took part in the training exercises played different roles from time to time. Smith said a police officer might take on the role of EMS, for example.

     “It gave you a feel for what that person might be doing during the incident,” Smith said. “We’re all first responders and know how to provide basic first aid.”

     There were also those portraying the victims and the active shooters.

     “We’d take turns carrying victims out and over to triage,” added Smith.

     As for why they chose the middle school, Smith said it’s one of the most complex buildings in Monticello. He said the multiple floors, corridors and various rooms allowed for better training.

     “This scenario wasn’t specific to a school,” he said. “It would apply to any event or structure in the area. Schools are just the most likely target.”

     Smith wanted to thank the school district for use of the middle school.

     “It shows their support in allowing us to train there and helps us be better prepared if an event ever strikes Monticello,” he said.

     “Those who attended this training can bring the information back to their various departments,” urged Leonard.


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