Critical Incident Response Team trains in Chatham

Tactical C.I.R.T police get ready for a training drill at the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance. Photo CKReview

By Greg Holden

Members of the Chatham-Kent Police Service were training an elite team in a mock hostage taking inside the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance yesterday. 20 officers were involved in the exercise intended to emulate a circumstance where two hospital employees were taken as hostages. Organized as a joint effort by the hospital and the police, the 5 hour practice session was a test of circumstances that the Medical Director of Emergency Services, Dr. Anthony Dixon hoped never became a reality. Saying that police are called on a daily basis, sometimes many times a day, Dr. Dixon said intoxicated and mentally ill people cause disturbances all the time at the hospital.

Patients and visitors were not disturbed by the training, which was held on a ward that officials did not wish to identify. Police allowed photographers to capture some staged shots before the event in the stairwell of the hospital. No press were permitted to witness any part of the drill. Sgt. Jon Mulder, C.I.R.T. supervisor, said police were creating a barricaded hostage situation and this was the first time his unit trained for that situation. When asked if officers were trained in dealing with mentally ill suspects, Mulder indicated that every C.I.R.T. officer was trained beyond what police college offers and that officers outside of C.I.R.T. were also getting further training on how to cope with mentally ill people.

Safe rooms, identified by a butterfly logo just outside the door of each room, have been set up for a year as safe havens for hospital employees who have been threatened or fear for their safety. Once inside the safe room, employees must lock the door and contact the switchboard who then calls the police. Linda Murray, the hospital emergency planner, said that because training combined the efforts of both the police and the hospital that procedures of both organizations would be put to the test. Until now no hospital employee has sought the sanctuary of a safe room.

C.I.R.T. has been put into action three times over the past year in emergency situations. One officer said he attended a hostage taking incident last January. The Ontario Hospital Association has recently revamped their colour codes for emergency situations and a hostage taking is a code purple. C.I.R.T. can also be deployed for search warrants or as a team to search for a missing person.

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