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Macomb County

SWAT team, COMTEC simulate school emergency

Training exercise demonstrates effectiveness of new technology

August 20, 2014

» click to enlarge «
Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel, far right, was joined by, from left, Emergency Management Director Vicki Wolber, Sheriff Anthony Wickersham and Romeo Community Schools Superintendent Nancy Campbell during the beginning of the Aug. 6 SWAT team exercise at a Romeo school.

MACOMB COUNTY — Members of the Macomb County Sheriff’s Office SWAT team moved stealthily as they approached Powell Middle School in response to a mock hostage situation Aug. 6.

Moving in with guidance from dispatchers and unit commanders witching through a video monitoring system from the county’s new Communications and Technology Center (COMTEC) in Mount Clemens, law enforcement was able to enter the Romeo Community Schools building where an actor, armed with a rifle, threatened violence on participants in the demonstration acting as victims. They swiftly took down the intruders and ended the crisis situation.

Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham said the success of the training exercise was an example of how critical COMTEC is to the safety of the entire county.

“This state-of-the-art technology shows what we can do,” he said. “All in all, it was a good exercise and this is a good partnership.”

The hour-long mock hostage demonstration showcased how COMTEC’s technology can be used in real-life emergencies. The county SWAT team regularly trains for a hostage situation or even an active shooter situation at a local school, because, if it does happen, they want to be prepared, said Macomb County Executive and former county sheriff Mark Hackel.

“This is an increased advantage we now have and adds another dimension for law enforcement,” Hackel said. “The question was, could we tap into their cameras at a moment’s notice and take control and coordinate, and the answer is ‘yes.’”

COMTEC, a $13.3 million facility that went up and running in December 2013, combines the operations of four county agencies, including the sheriff’s office, the Department of Roads, Emergency Management and Information Technology.

Its equipment includes eight traffic monitoring positions; 14 police dispatch workstations, with the capacity to add another 11; a new 911 phone system; new dispatch radio consoles; 24 emergency operation center workstations; a signal lab and traffic light monitoring system; a state-of-the-art IT data center; and a new computer-aided dispatch and records management system that will be available late this year.

Inside COMTEC is a 20-by-50-foot video wall, which is equipped with 54 individual 70-inch television screens that can be viewed separately or grouped into various combinations. Inputs on the video wall include TV stations, weather, mapping, traffic cameras, a siren alert system, computer displays and video conferencing. The recent demonstration was the first look at how they can connect to schools in the event of an emergency such as this.

Hackel said the demonstration was the first of its kind at COMTEC, and added that the goal now is to coordinate with other Macomb County school districts and their security systems in the coming months.

“That connectivity only takes place if there is an emergency,” Hackel said. “Romeo is going to be at an advantage because a connection has already been made.”

He added that this technology is so important because of how the times have changed, referring to tragic incidents like at Sandy Hook and Columbine.

“Schools across the county now have (security) cameras in place,” Hackel said. “We (emergency responders/law enforcement) have the ability to gather intelligence like we’ve never had before. This technology can work and does work.”

About the author

Staff Writer Julie Snyder covers Harrison Township, Mount Clemens, Macomb County, L’Anse Creuse Public Schools, and Mount Clemens Community Schools for the Journal. She has worked for C & G Newspapers since 2003, and attended the University of Toledo with degrees in journalism and photography. Julie has received several awards for her work in Arizona and Washington, including AP awards in Arizona for breaking news reporting and feature writing.

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