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State of Emergency: How agencies in Hennepin Co. joined forces to train for threats

State of Emergency: How agencies in Hennepin County joined forces to train
State of Emergency: How agencies in Hennepin County joined forces to train 04:02

MINNEAPOLIS — We've heard it too many times around the country. A person has opened fire, hurting people and killing others. There were more mass shootings than days in 2023. WCCO wanted to know how ready Minnesota is to respond.

Senior investigative reporter Jennifer Mayerle discovered agencies in Hennepin County joined forces a decade ago.

"An event like this, we all know is a horrible, terrible event. And we need to be prepared when this event happens to act and perform at a very fast pace. Because at the end of the day, it's about saving lives," Battalion Chief Steve Baker with the Plymouth Fire Department said.

A regional response board made up of police, fire, EMS and dispatch work in tandem to train.

"I think what we've all learned over time is we have to have these disciplines working together to most effectively enter and engage and stop a threat and then evacuate injured and take care of those people," Chief Matt Sackett with the Eden Prairie Police Department said.

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"All of us play a piece in that. And when one of those pieces falls out of line or doesn't do their part, that's when things start to break down. We all have to be on the same team," Battalion Chief Tyler Lupkes with Hennepin EMS said.

"No matter how big or small an agency is, or a dispatch center, we can't handle this alone," Director Tony Martin with Hennepin EMS said.

The all-day class is repeated a dozen times a year so more responders can gain tools from the training. 

"So it's everything from orientation to basic command structures," Sackett said.

They say it's classroom work coupled with hands-on learning.

"911 dispatch centers, that's where the first call comes in. And so it's providing that information to all these agencies," Martin said.

"And we really focus on what we'll call the crisis phases, right? The first phase is for law enforcement to, we get the call, and they engage, right? They get to the event, we get there. Phase two, they've entered the building and they're making the building safe. Okay, phase three," Baker said.

"We look at debriefs that have come out. We look at talking with people from the state across the nation about other incidents and learning from them," Sackett said.

And they do focused sessions too.

"We do a lot of training with, you know, stop the bleed campaigns, tourniquets, bleeding, control, things like that. But then ultimately getting the patients to definitive care, they need to go to a hospital," Lupkes said.

"With those breakouts we are, we're listening to other incidents, mass casualty shooters around the world, around the United States. And just listening to those. I think the biggest piece that we've learned is to communicate and to get that on paper and to train that way," Martin said.

"It's that again, you know, planning ahead and knowing what each discipline is going to be doing their roles and their responsibilities, having that overall communication," Sackett said.

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"What can't you prepare for?" Mayerle asked.

"What the incident is going to be," Martin said.

"And where and when," Sackett said.

"You have to be ready every day. Because you don't know when or where," Lupkes said.

"You just asked a question that made us all take pause. And I, for me, that pause was because I don't want to answer it. I want to train for everything. I want to be prepared. No matter what. And I know that's not realistic. But we're going to do the best we can. And we're prepared to go the extra mile no matter what," Baker said.

So far roughly 3,500 people have gone through their training. The board hopes other counties and departments in Minnesota, and around the country, will consider using their model. Many have already asked for the playbook.

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