The call went out a little after 9 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 23, over the Tinley Park emergency radios. A stolen white tractor-trailer traveling at a high rate of speed had exited I-80 at Harlem Avenue and crashed when it reached Tiger Lane, spilling its drums of hazardous materials and creating a hazardous smoke cloud.
A few minutes later, the dispatcher said calls had been received that an armed men had fled the wrecked vehicle, shooting and wounding people. A few more minutes, after a Tinley Park Police arrived on the scene, word goes out on the radios: "Officer down! Officer down!"
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Sunday's situation, which played out as a worst-case scenario, was just a test for Tinley Park's emergency response workers. But it's part of what they need to prepare for, so they're ready when a full-scale drill becomes a full-scale disaster.
That's why members of the village's various emergency agencies—including the police and fire departments—participated in this annual training event. Organized by Tinley's Emergency Management Agency, the drill, which lasted about an hour, is a requirement by the U.S. Office of Homeland Security, said EMA director Pat Carr, adding that the training is a stipulation in order for the village to receive funding from the federal agency.
More importantly, though, drills like the one Sunday give officials a chance evaluate participants' response time, communication during a crisis and ability to set up and transfer command at the scene, Carr said. Before the training event began, Carr told the emergency crews to expect mistakes, because that's the only way they're able to learn and improve.
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"They're always evolving," Carr said of the training and safety techniques police officers and firefighters need to have in a post-9/11 world. "And the people and communities who don't evolve are the ones who are in trouble."
During the exercise, Carr, accompanied by Assistant Fire Chief Paul Cummins, worked with the first responders, reinforcing best practices and pointing out missteps. When the drill wrapped up, the other evaluators who were monitoring the event gave their initial impressions to the participants in what was called a "hot wash" session.
Check out the media gallery for photos from the disaster drill.
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