Hostage situation just an exercise
Published: Thursday, May 8th, 2014
Custer County residents are advised to try to avoid doing business at the Custer County Courthouse on Thursday, May 22, from 1:30 to 3 p.m.
Unless of course, they want to be taken hostage.
It is on that day the local emergency responders and the county will join forces with other area counties for the 2014 regional exercise—the annual disaster-simulation scenario that helps all those involved train and learn about certain scenarios that could some day play out in today’s world.
This year’s scenario will see Custer, Lawrence, Fall River and Butte counties participate in the exercise, in which a hostage situation will unfold at the courthouse.
Custer County emergency management director Mike Carter said the plan will include exercising security measures at the courthouse and possibly other buildings in town, including a full-scale evacuation of the building.
“There will be quite a bit of activity around the courthouse,” he said.
Carter said virtually every emergency service in the city and county is scheduled to participate in the exercise, as well as the City of Custer, the Forest Service and the National Park Service. Barricades will more than likely be set up around the courthouse as the scenario unfolds, and those in the area of the courthouse can expect to see courthouse workers and possibly some visitors escorted from the building via armed escort.
Because of that, Carter said, it is important for people to realize what is taking place is just an exercise.
“We want everyone to know long before it happens,” he said. “And we want people to be aware of it the day it happens.”
Although the courthouse will be “under siege” during the hour and a half scheduled for the exercise, court will still take place on that day. Because of that, the ground level floor of the courthouse will be mostly unaffected by the exercise. In addition, business can still be conducted at the courthouse during the exercise. Those taking care of business during that time will be met at the door by someone who can lead them to the office they need. Each office will have one employee not participating in the exercise.
As always, each discipline involved in the exercise will be evaluated by an impartial observer so those entities can learn what they did well and what they can improve on should such a scenario ever unfold in Custer.
“This is one of those situations where you cannot write a plan for it,” Carter said. “I say that in light of the fact if you write a plan that has every detail covered, for sure if there ever is a real occurrence like this there will be a detail that is left out of the plan.”
Carter said issues will arise throughout the scenario that responders must react to and “resources” may or may not be available as they are called in throughout the duration of the exercise. If the scenario calls for certain resources to be unavailable, responders must think quickly and go to “Plan B.”
“The goal is we want to see where any shortcomings we might have are,” he said.
Carter said conducting the exercise will reinforce with courthouse employees how to evacuate the building properly, as well as teach responders how to keep both employees and visitors to the courthouse safe in an emergency situation.
“It’s a situation where we are responding to the national atmosphere as far as what we see going on in the news all the time,” he said. “We don’t want to be caught short in Custer.”
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