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Trainings Prepare First Responders

First responders face increasingly dangerous situations when they respond to calls in today’s world of growing violence. It is important that they be kept informed of emerging trends and hazardous situations they may encounter.

Many incidents grow beyond the capacity of a single agency or municipality. It is therefore beneficial for first responders to establish relationships with responders from surrounding municipalities and from as many disciplines as possible.

The Western Region Homeland Security Advisory Council (WRHSAC) provides responders with cutting edge trainings which increase responder knowledge and capabilities. The trainings bring together multiple disciplines from throughout western Massachusetts, fostering relationships that can be key elements to effective and timely response to emergency incidents. Personnel from local agencies train beside those from state and federal agencies benefiting all with shared knowledge of response capacities and interagency relationships.

Some highlights of WRHSAC trainings over the last year include:

  • Pediatric Psychological First Aid
  • Medical Management and Response to Bombing Incidents
  • Advanced Tactical EMS
  • Mass Casualty Incident Drill
  • Response to active shooter incidents drills & full-scale exercise

WRHSAC also funds trainings for several specialized teams, such as the Western Massachusetts Technical Rescue Team, the Hazardous Materials Response Teams, Northwest Massachusetts Incident Management Team, and the newly formed Franklin County Special Response Team.

WRHSAC will continue to focus on providing quality trainings throughout the coming year. Trainings will address topics such as: command and control, communications, search & rescue operations, mass care services and more. WRHSAC will distribute information about upcoming trainings to first responders throughout western Massachusetts. Additionally, interested parties can monitor the Council’s website and Facebook page, for training announcements.

WRHSAC & FBI Host Symposium

The Western Region Homeland Security Advisory Council (WRHSAC) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), hosted an informational symposium on active shooter incidents in March at the Deerfield Academy. More than 600 people from throughout western Massachusetts representing multiple disciplines including, law enforcement, fire, emergency medical services, hospitals, schools, colleges and businesses, attended the event.

Participants heard lessons learned from incident commanders involved with previous active shooter incidents. Presenters included:

Connecticut State Police Lt. David DelVecchia and Captain Joe Rios, of the Newtown Connecticut Police Department who together discussed the response, investigation logistics, and post-incident management of the shooting tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.

Chief David Billings, Manchester Connecticut Fire Department reviewed the first responder response to the 2010 Hartford Beer Distributor incident   offering specific considerations for Fire and EMS at active shooter incidents.

Special FBI Agent Thomas Veivia examined demonstrated shooter behavior patterns and possible warning signs of potential shooters.

Nationally certified Comfort Dogs and their handlers from HOPE Animal Assisted Crisis Response also attended. The dogs visited with attendees and offered assistance to those who may have been emotionally affected by the day’s discussions.

The symposium was well received by attendees, with many noting how much they garnered from the lessons learned, and their appreciation for the care and respect of incident survivors and victims demonstrated by the presenters.

WRHSAC is reviewing attendee feedback with an eye towards next steps regarding this topic and anticipates conducting more events and trainings to assist the region’s preparedness capabilities to prevent and respond to active shooter incidents.