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Minnesota National Guard
Getting to know you, just in case: Law enforcement and emergency responders converge at UMC for first-of-its kind exercise

Wednesday morning at UMC, security personnel spotted some suspicious activity near Robertson Hall, the former student residence hall that's now gutted and vacant A responding officer then observed someone run into the building carrying what looked like a firearm
The Crookston Police Department's Special Response Team was then called to the scene, entered the building and arrested some suspects But while inside, they observed what appeared to be a makeshift chemical laboratory encompassing multiple rooms

Then just about every possible emergency response agency from the area was called, most notably the Minnesota National Guard's 55th Civil Support Team Soon after, the team had a communications command post established in the parking lot behind Robertson Hall and the Kiehle Building Meanwhile, the area was sealed off and a sea of personnel from the Crookston Police Department, Polk County Sheriff's Office, Crookston Fire Department, Great Plains EMS, and Crookston, Polk County and University of Minnesota emergency management departments put appropriate emergency response measures into action

Relax, though, it was all just a drill

The "suspect" with the firearm and the others who were apprehended inside Robertson weren't suspects at all; they were UMC students enrolled in the Natural Resources Aviation Law Enforcement program who were recruited to serve as actors

Overseeing it all was LTC Matt Snyder, commander of the 55th (Weapons of Mass Destruction) Civil Support Team The team brought equipment similar to what they brought the last time they assisted with an emergency response in this area, when UND student Dru Sjodin disappeared in November 2003 With their communication trucks and satellite equipment, the 55th three years ago and again on Wednesday established an Internet linkage, digital mapping capabilities, and had a radio signal that could lock into almost any frequency
After the Special Response Team breached doors in Robertson and used "flash bang" devices to disorient the suspects inside, CPD Chief Tim Motherway said hazardous material teams, wearing full-cover "Class A" suits, determined that the lab was set up to make ricin, a chemical capable of causing massive deaths as a biological weapon

While inspecting the lab's multiple rooms, a member of the haz-mat team activated his personal alert siren, which echoed up and down the halls The siren, Motherway said, meant he was in some type of distress and was incapacitated Soon, he was being rushed down the main hall and outside, to a decontamination area, where his suit was cut off and his condition was assessed

While personnel practiced their decontamination skills nearby, Snyder said he thought the day's drill went very well Similar exercises will be conducted in other parts of the state as well, he said

"I talked to the 55th's regional coordinator about a year ago, and I said we have to do some of these training exercises in other parts of the state, not just the metro area," he said "That's what we're trying to do"

Although Wednesday's exercises focused on a doomsday scenario - biological warfare - Snyder said more than anything it was a chance for emergency responders from many agencies to get to know each other and work together

"The main purpose is simply to see each other, face to face, so if there's a real problem that requires a multi-agency response there will be some familiarity," he said "It also lets the 55th showcase our abilities and what we can bring to a situation"

By Mike Christopherson, Crookston Times


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Posted: 2018-01-18  12:59 PM
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Posted: 2017-12-13  10:11 AM
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Posted: 2017-12-12  11:29 AM
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