The City of Columbus Police and Fire Departments participated Friday, October 26, in a community-wide emergency response training exercise organized by the Bartholomew County Local Emergency Planning Committee that included realistic simulations in hostage situations, hazardous radioactive materials and explosives.
The Columbus Municipal Airport hosted the full-scale training exercise, which provided emergency responders from Columbus and Bartholomew County an opportunity to train together and review their response in an effort to be better prepared for actual emergency situations.
“This training gave us real-life practice in responding to emergencies that our community could face,” said Columbus Fire Chief Dave Allmon. “By participating in this exercise, our firefighters and other emergency responders gained valuable experience that we can use when faced with large-scale emergencies.”
The exercise started with a call from Columbus Municipal Airport Director Brian Payne, who reported suspicious activity around an airplane that landed at the airport without approval from the airport tower. When Columbus Police Department officers arrived, they found a gunman holding a hostage on the plane wing and more people inside the aircraft, which was simulated by a school bus.
Police set up a perimeter around the airport, and the Columbus SWAT Team was called out to secure the scene. As the training exercise developed, authorities discovered radioactive material and a bomb on the plane along with another hostage situation in a nearby building on the airport grounds.
Columbus Firefighters arrived to test the hostages for radioactive contamination and to handle the hazardous materials, while the Columbus Police Department Bomb Squad disposed of the explosive device. Columbus Regional Hospital also participated in the exercise by having an ambulance at the scene to treat patients and by having the hospital’s emergency department on standby.
“This full-scale exercise provided another chance for our emergency responders to get boots-on-the ground training that will help them keep our community safe,” Mayor Kristen Brown said. “We are grateful for this opportunity to prepare our responders at home in our City.”
City Firefighters responded from Stations 1, 2 and 5 with mutual aid from county volunteer fire departments to cover those areas, as would occur during a real emergency. About 25 Columbus Police Officers also were involved in the training, including the SWAT team, hostage negotiators, the hazardous devices unit, K-9 officers and members of the patrol and investigations divisions.
“Our different divisions took advantage of this unique opportunity to train together and work with other agencies in the same ways they would during a real emergency,” said Columbus Police Chief Jason Maddix. “We regularly train within our own departments, and this training allowed us to work with other agencies to improve our overall response as a community.”