YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Members of the Valley’s crisis response team staged a hostage situation exercise Thursday at the Covelli Centre in downtown Youngstown.
Officers dressed in full tactical gear hustled into the arena, playing out the scenario of an active shooter with wounded victims needing to be rescued and evacuated by helicopter.
The call-out for an emergency like this one would be a text to cell phones, alerting police and other agencies of a SWAT situation. In the case during Thursday’s drill, the scenario begins as a domestic dispute between a husband and wife who work at the arena.
“We just scripted it out that he comes down here to confront her and comes with is two brothers,” said Swat Team Commander Sgt. John Elberty.
As the script plays out, shots are fired, victims are wounded and suspects take hostages. A team rolls up and hustles inside. Minutes later they carry out a victim, waiting for a medical helicopter to arrive.
The victims and suspects are all being played by troopers with the Ohio State Highway Patrol’s Special Response Team. As the SWAT members head back inside, a team of negotiators works out of a nearby command center, talking with suspects on the phone.
“Our team tried to get all the information that we can to help our tactical team by talking to the subject,” said Sgt. Kathy Dina.
That information is relayed using the SWAT team’s new communications truck. The equipment was obtained free-of-charge through Army surplus and then painted and outfitted with donated labor and materials from Greenwood Chevrolet.
Elberty admits real-life crisis situations actually unfold much easier than scripted drills but says those involved will take what they learn and put it use the next time there is a real emergency.