Farmington area city and school officials learned Wednesday how local emergency personnel prepare for an incident like the Valentine’s Day mass shooting at a Lakeland, Florida high school.
In presentations during a joint meeting held at Longacre House in Farmington Hills, public safety chiefs talked about training and drills, school liaison officers, and an under-used anonymous channel for tips, among other measures currently in place.
Hills Chief Chuck Nebus said his department has put on ALICE (Alert Lockdown Inform Counter Evacuate) training for city officials and employees and local private schools. Talks are underway to bring it to Farmington Public Schools, he said.
According to alicetraining.com, participants learn how to recognize danger, take shelter, communicate, create distractions to disrupt a shooter, and get out of the “danger zone” during an active shooter incident.
In addition, officials may create a connection between school cameras and the police department’s dispatch center so that police would have real-time information during an incident. Nebus said the dispatch center is about to undergo a makeover to implement a new county-wide radio system, next generation 9-1-1 service, new radio consoles and a new 9-1-1 phone system, among other improvements.
Farmington Hills Police dispatch serves Farmington Hills Fire Department, Farmington Public Safety and the Franklin Police Department. Local departments are also part of OAKTAC (Oakland County Law Enforcement Tactical Response Coordinating Group), which provides resources and training in tactical response.
Nebus and Farmington Public Safety Director Frank Demers both spoke about the lines of communication among school staff, students, and law enforcement. While the State of Michigan has implemented OK2SAY, which facilitates anonymous tips online, via phone, text or a smart phone app, officials say it’s not widely used.
Nebus and Demers agreed that school resource officers (SROs) serve as primary channels of communication with students. Officers build relationships during the school day and by attending sporting and other events.
Demers also mentioned a decrease in larcenies at Farmington High. New principal Tom Shelton began locking down locker rooms when the bell rings, a time when students are supposed to be in class. That simple measure has decreased larcenies from eight or nine in previous years to just three during this school year.
“The number isn’t huge, but it shows we’re headed in the right direction,” he said in a follow-up email.
Farmington Hills Fire Chief Jon Unruh said emergency medical response has changed since the Columbine High School shooting in 1999. Back then, victims had to wait for medical treatment until the building was cleared.
“We will enter into a building that has been preliminarily secured to do rapid treatment and transport of victims,” he said.
Paramedics and emergency responders train year ’round, and all five ambulances are equipped with kevlar vests and helmets. Rigs are also mobile “hot spots.”
Unruh said the department also works extensively with Beaumont Farmington Hills. Emergency room personnel regularly ride with firefighters.
“Farmington Hills Fire Department has a closer relationship with a hospital than perhaps any department in Michigan,” Unruh added.