Coming through during a crisis

County officials invest in new rescue vehicle

Summer

In Carroll County

July 10, 2005|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

Black-clad members of Carroll County's new Crisis Response Team hustled around their new armored rescue vehicle as a rifleman covered them from possible gunfire to demonstrate the choreography in a simulated rescue of a downed comrade.

Before the brief exhibition Wednesday, eight team members from the sheriff's office and the Westminster Police Department received their insignia from Sheriff Kenneth L. Tregoning and Chief Jeff Spaulding, with other local police and government officials at the Danele Shipley Memorial Arena at the Carroll County Agricultural Center.

"It's important to have a resource within Carroll County," Tregoning said, noting that a memorandum of understanding has been agreed on with the county's other municipal police forces. Carroll previously relied upon the statewide state police SWAT team and will continue to work with the team, he said.

Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge said the money for a mobile command center and the armored vehicle came from homeland security funds through the Baltimore Regional Planning Council, which comprises Baltimore and Carroll, Howard, Harford, Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties.

"I think it's going to serve us very, very well," Gouge said. The county wants to assess "how we would really work in a time of crisis. ... Anything could happen at any time. I hope we don't ever have to use any of this for a terrorist attack."

The command center cost about $255,000 and the armored vehicle $196,000, with "every dime" from the federal funds, she said.

The tanklike vehicle weighs 17,000 pounds, has a 20-ton winch, tandem rear wheels, and gas and radiation meters inside, plus gun ports and a turret providing a 360-degree field of vision.

The vehicle already has seen use in a real crisis: in Woodbine on March 11, after a Baltimore man apparently killed a woman in Woodlawn, broke into the home of an ex-girlfriend in Westminster and stole her vehicle, then ran afoul of two deputies who were running a radar trap and were unaware of the other incidents.

After the man drove into a cornfield and got out firing, the police used the vehicle to approach Craig Eugene Hill Sr., 31, of the 2600 block of Norland Road, who was found by the vehicle dead of a self-inflicted gunshot from a stolen revolver, according to the state police investigation of the shooting.

The mobile command center was absent from last week's ceremony -- back in Ohio for repairs. It was used June 17 when the county undertook a homeland security disaster drill in New Windsor, with a scenario that included a train bombing, chemical spill and terrorists holed up in a building.

A second command center will go to the county's Office of Public Safety, which received a separate $325,000 grant in April for a vehicle that would give the county a backup communications and mobile 911 center in the event of a power failure.

The county's 14 volunteer fire companies also can share the mobile command post to direct rescue and fire operations, according to William E. Martin, Carroll's emergency management coordinator.

There are two crisis response teams "so they're not on call 24/7/365," said Spaulding, who came to Westminster from Howard County and recommended its SWAT training program, which team members completed last fall. Both teams could be used if events warranted, and there are also two hostage negotiation teams and two incident commanders.

"One of the most important things we learned from the lessons of 9/11 is your first line of defense in a crisis is going to be your local responders," Spaulding said, praising the members for volunteering to go into harm's way "above and beyond the call of duty."

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