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Cook County to expand training of first responders

Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Chicago Sun-Times
by FRANK MAIN

Cook County officials said they’re expanding training for cops, firefighters and other first responders — who heard Tuesday from two Norwegian cops who dealt with the terror attacks that killed 77 people in their country.

In the past, the county didn’t sponsor much training like that for first responders, said Michael Masters, director of Cook County’s Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

But this year, the county has used federal Homeland Security funding to train more than 2,000 first responders, Masters said. In 2013, the county will expand such training with a portion of a $47 million federal Homeland Security grant being shared by the county and city of Chicago, he said.

“These are skill sets for police and firefighters every time they step out of a police car or a fire rig,” Masters said. “We are looking at training collaboratively with the city.”

Municipalities throughout Cook County can take part, he added.

On Tuesday, the county sponsored a closed briefing in southwest suburban Countryside, where more than 100 first responders from across the region heard two cops from Norway discuss their experiences during last year’s terror attacks in Oslo and on Utoya Island.

“This is an example of spending more dollars to benefit the boots on the ground,” Masters said.

The attacks were carried out by Anders Behring Breivik, who killed eight people in the bombing of a government complex in Oslo. Then he went on a shooting rampage on Utoya Island, killing 68 more people. Breivik was convicted and sentenced to 21 years in prison.

A Norwegian commission found a series of mistakes by police and intelligence services. The blunders included a failure to mobilize helicopters, share information or accept help from private citizens willing to use their boats to ferry officers to the island.

“The main lesson is communication, communication, communication,” said one of Tuesday’s speakers, Knut Grini, an officer with the national police in Norway and one of the first responders to the island.

Asked for some practical recommendations for first responders, Grini told the Sun-Times they should be provided with take-home vehicles.

“Obviously, you can respond faster,” he said, adding that “politics and money” have barred officers from getting take-home cars in Norway.

Grini also said first responders should train as realistically as possible. But authorities here might not be prepared for some of the ways the Norwegian police accomplish that.

“If you train for gunshot wounds, then train on pigs that you shoot to see the bleeding and how it works. Don’t just say, ‘You have a gunshot wound in this area, what do you do?’ ”

“The pigs are drugged, of course,” Grini’s partner quickly added.




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