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Police to stage hostage situation

August 16, 1999|By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

CLEAR SPRING - Maryland State Police will stage a hostage and shooting situation at Clear Spring High School on Wednesday afternoon to prepare state police and emergency workers for such real life situations.

The training exercise is being organized by Maryland State Police Lt. Bruce Smith, who said he selected the Clear Spring campus on Broadfording Road because of its central location.

School Board Executive Director of Support Services William McKinley emphasized the drill is not in response to any specific safety concerns at Clear Spring.

The drill will take place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Smith said the exercise will focus on "first responders," or those organizations that typically show up first at a crime or emergency scene.

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State police hold such events at least once a year throughout Maryland. Wednesday's exercise will be the first of its type to be held in Washington County, Smith said.

Previous training drills have been held at government buildings, shopping centers, airports and hospitals.

"It's a way to look at how people are working together and determine if any changes need to be made," Smith said.

The following groups will be participating in the training event: The Hagerstown barracks of Maryland State Police, Washington County School system, Clear Spring Volunteer Fire Co., Washington County Emergency Operations Center, Maryland State Fire Marshal's Office, and the Maryland State Police Hostage Response Team, Special Tactical Assault Team Element and Public Affairs Unit.

During the training session, officers will assume the roles of hostages and hostage takers. The situation will unfold in the high school building but the entire campus will be used, Smith said.

"We want things to be as realistic as possible," he said.

Washington County Emergency Services dispatchers will take a simulated 911 call from the school.

Negotiators will talk with the hostage takers and practice ways to defuse a crisis situation, and state police troopers and special response teams will coordinate efforts to free the victims, Smith said.

"The most important thing is communication and information gathering between agencies - it's critical," said Smith.

He said that to sharpen skills, state police analyze shooting and hostage incidents around the world.

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