By Sheriff Greg Ahern
PoliceOne Special Contributor
The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, along with our many first responder partners, have hosted the Urban Shield training exercise to better prepare our region for successful responses to any act of terrorism or major disaster. Now in our sixth year, we continue to emphasize the importance of first responders to train together. We must not forget that terrorists throughout our world repeatedly call for the obliteration and death of the United States. Each year in our Nation we too often learn of tragedies in our communities related to terrorism and natural disasters. This year we have experienced an increase in both the number of active shooter incidents and natural disasters. These recent events include terrorism related incidents which showcase the tragedies that occur in our communities. They also include a number of mentally ill individuals that act out their evil thoughts that result in the loss of innocent lives which effect entire communities.
On April 2, 2012, we witnessed the Oikos University shootings in Oakland where seven students were gunned down. The suspect was armed with a .45 caliber handgun with four fully loaded 10 round magazines. On July 20, 2012, a gunman at the Century 16 Theater killed 12 people and shot 58 other victims in Aurora, Colorado. The gunman dispersed tear gas into the theater while he was armed with a 12-gauge shotgun, a semi-automatic rifle with a 100-round drum magazine and a .22 caliber handgun. He also wore a ballistic vest and a ballistic helmet. On August 5, 2012, a neo Nazi armed with a 9 mm handgun gunned down innocent victims at the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. He killed six people and shot four others, including a policeman who was providing aid to an injured victim. On August 13, 2012, a gunman shot and killed Constable Brian Bachmann and a civilian while four others were injured near the campus of Texas A & M located in College Station, Texas. On August 16, 2012, two Louisiana sheriff’s deputies, Brandon Nielsen and Jeremy Triche, were shot and killed while two other deputies were wounded following the investigation of another deputy being shot. The gunman was a wanted felon who had made terrorist threats in the past. He was armed with an assault rifle when he ambushed the deputies who were interviewing a subject related to a prior shooting. On August 24, 2012, a fired employee returned to his job site and shot his coworker with a .45 caliber handgun. The suspect then confronted two NYPD police officers outside the Empire State Building which caused the officers to shoot and kill the suspect. On August 31, 2012, a gunman fired 16 rounds from an AK-47 type assault rifle as he shot his two coworkers dead. He then shot himself with his .45 caliber handgun at a grocery store in Old Bridge, New Jersey.
Our Nation also has had a number of natural disasters that include the tornados on April 15, 2012, where five people were killed in Woodward, Oklahoma. We also suffered during the June 2012, Mid-Atlantic and Midwest thunderstorms which were the most destructive and deadly fast –moving storms in North American history. This storm resulted in the deaths of 22 citizens, widespread damage and an estimated 3,000,000 people without power across the region. In August 2012, Hurricane Isaac damaged at least 13,000 homes across Louisiana.
In the summer of 2012, California suffered from multiple firestorms that included the Ponderosa Fire in Tehama County and Shasta County, along with the Bagley Fire and the Stafford Fire in Shasta County, the Fort Complex Fire in the Klamath National Forest, the 16 Complex Fire in Sonoma County, the Lassen County Fire in the Volcanic National Park, the North Pass Fire in Mendocino County and the Chips Fire in Plumas County. All of these fires had a major effect on northern California while the Williams Fire in the Angeles National Forest in San Gabriel had a major effect on southern California.
These incidents reaffirm the importance that our first responders work as an organized team in order to minimize the destruction and save the lives of those who need immediate attention. Events across our Nation, in our state and in our local communities, highlight the need for each region to be prepared. Each of these events created an exigency for all first responders in their respective disciplines to take immediate action and act as a team. Their response under a unified command allowed them to work together which saved lives and mitigated the disaster from becoming even more tragic.
Our history has proven these events place extraordinary demands upon all of the agencies personnel that respond. In addition to the knowledge, skill and resources required to manage major hurdles that these disasters present, unique and often difficult complexities and challenges are presented to the first responders. All of these major incidents draw considerable attention and scrutiny from individuals, segments of the public, the news media, and various civilian and governmental organizations, institutions and agencies. It is imperative that our communities have trust in our actions as first responders and that our communities are confident we will get the job done. Our working together in a unified response will allow us to utilize proven tactics and test our best strategies.
The Urban Shield training received by several thousand individuals has made our region one of the best prepared in our country. The efforts of so many professionals who have provided this training have raised the competency of our first responders and managers that are tasked with the responsibility to be successful in their particular mission related to the incident. Many of the leaders in our area that are involved in Urban Shield have made their agencies better prepared with the incorporation of new technology and modern equipment which has been demonstrated by our private partners. Our vendors have added to our abilities to be successful and improved our capabilities. It is our opinion, this training provides personnel and managers the ability to recognize, understand and correctly apply, the training they have acquired during Urban Shield to any critical incident. We also believe each participant will gain the knowledge to realize the necessity to properly utilize the modern tools, equipment and technology during any major situation. This realistic training at various scenarios includes the need for an organized team response, the utilization of the proper tools and the incorporation of advanced technology at each site. Our belief is that such training will keep our region better prepared for future responses to any major event. It is the proper leadership and management that guide our units during this time of crisis to a successful outcome. It is the work of our first responders at each critical incident that saves lives.
Now is our opportunity to plan, train and prepare in advance, so that we can “Train with Purpose, Serve with Honor.” Urban Shield 2012 will assist us to be successful in the future and make every effort to limit any disasters final outcome in each of our respective regions.
This year our 2012 Urban Shield Full Scale Exercise Overarching Goals are as follows:
- Test new regional communication capabilities.
- Evaluate the integration of mass transportation and other critical infrastructure, along with their onsite personnel into a cooperative, unified command response.
- Evaluate the UASI Training and Exercise Program effectiveness.
- Test CBRNE detection, response, and decontamination by evaluating USAR/HazMat/EOD core competencies.
- Create awareness of new technologies which will help first responders do their jobs safer and more efficiently.
- Evaluate medical public health and mass care preparedness core competencies.
- Control the exercise management activities utilizing the ICS structure consistent with NIMS and SEMS.
We strive to apply proper tactics, plan for a timely response, and prepare our staff to take appropriate actions. All of our first responders who take action, both on scene and at our command centers, will have an immediate effect on the outcome of any of these incidents. Our specific roles in our respective disciplines will also have a long term effect upon the future responses to similar incidents. It is our opinion, agencies should ensure key personnel are operationally competent and are able to convert policy and training into effective practice.
Our Urban Shield partners have the advantage of being well prepared to respond and committed to succeed during these events. Those agencies that choose to be a part of Urban Shield will gain the opportunity to train together to test their own capabilities. We have learned from prior Urban Shield events that emergency operations can be improved and that our staff needs further training to become proficient at these perishable skills. As we expand our regional collaboration to prevent and respond to acts of terror and natural disasters, we can now learn from each other to improve upon our final outcomes. Again, we have made efforts to challenge law enforcement tactical teams, fire response teams, medical units, including our EMS partners and our explosive ordnance disposal teams to compete under stressful conditions in actual potential settings of such events. It is our mission to ensure that each participant will train with a purpose, so that they are prepared to serve with honor. The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office is proud to have so many agencies participate in this truly unique one-of-a kind training event.
Train with Purpose – Serve with Honor