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Training builds relationships among Dakota County agencies

Farmington and Rosemount firefighters learned about some of the things the Dakota County Sheriff's Department has available for open water rescue during Saturday's training session at the Dakota Communications Center.

Sooner or later, everyone needs a little help. That's true even for some of the people you call for help in times of emergency.

With that in mind, a number of Farmington and Rosemount emergency personnel participated in the Frontline Supervisor Class offered by the Dakota County Domestic Preparedness Committee.

Held Saturday at the Dakota Communications Center in Rosemount, the class was designed to educate police, firefighters and EMS personnel from around the county on what services are available to them in the case of an emergency.

The training session was held in two parts. The morning sessions featured actual emergency situations that happened in Dakota County, and focused on how those situations were handled at the time. The afternoon included a tour of many of the tools of the trade available through agencies in Dakota County.

The idea, DCDPC member and Burnsville police sergeant Don Stenger said, is to get each department familiar with the people, the skills and the equipment available when emergencies arise.

Being prepared

The Dakota County Domestic Preparedness Committee came to be after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Around the same time, the county also developed its Special Operations Team, which is part of the DCDPC.

Both organizations have membership from every community in Dakota County. Communities pay a per-capita annual stipend to participate, but also provide two to five people -- firefighters, police or EMS -- to be part of the SOT.

Special Operations Team members spend extra time in training for unusual situations, like working with hazardous materials, evidence collection or rescuing people trapped in confined spaces. The SOT was called in to Farmington in February, 2010, to rescue someone who had gotten stuck in a silo rescue at Feely Elevator.

"Ten years ago, we really didn't have the capability to do that kind of rescue in this county," Farmington fire marshal John Powers said. "The county has the capabilities and training now that can affect rescues a lot sooner. (The SOT) is evolving into a better thing to have locally in Dakota County."

In the case of the silo rescue, Powers chose to call in the SOT, which is also part of a larger rescue organization, Minnesota Task Force One. The rescue took a combined effort on behalf of Farmington firefighters, the SOT and Task Force One.

Stenger points to that incident as one of the reasons for Saturday's Frontline Supervisor Class. Powers called in help, because he knew what other equipment and skills were available through Dakota County. However, not every frontline officer has the same insight.

"The target was the frontline officers who are there at the scene right away," Stenger said. "This is just a way to open their eyes because a lot of people don't realize what's here and available to them."

Training sessions

The morning training sessions were a recap of emergency situations that have come up around Dakota County in the past decade, Stenger said.

"We have had enough major incidents in the county that we didn't have to look too far for our presenters," Stenger said.

As one of the presenters, Powers reviewed the silo rescue. Other topics included an officer-involved shooting in Hastings, the Burncliff Apartment fire in Burnsville, an ammonia spill from Randolph, a bank robbery from West St. Paul and the summer storms of 2012.

"My presentation wasn't on the technical part of (the silo rescue). It was on the collaborative part of it, the ability to work together, and some of the obstacles we had to overcome that day. If it would have happened in Castle Rock, we would have had to handle it all differently," Powers said.

That was the point of the morning training sessions, Stenger said. Every department is good at keeping the follow-up notes, but in sessions like the one held this weekend, those events can be reviewed to see what they would have done the same, or what would have been done differently.

Stenger also invited public works employees from around the county to participate in the training. More and more, he said, public works departments are being called in to help in emergency situations.

"We have found in the past we haven't involved them enough in our training," Stenger said.

Available equipment

The final part of Saturday's session was a tour of some of the vehicles, teams and equipment available in emergency situations.

The city of Burnsville provided both its crime scene investigation truck and its incident command vehicle. Eagan also brought a mobile command unit. The SOT provided four vehicles to show its capabilities, as well. The Dakota County Mutual Aid Assistance Group vehicle and a few members were also on site.

Much of the equipment and vehicles available were purchased through grant funding, Stenger said.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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