BY STARRLA CRAY
WINSTED, MN Firefighters, police officers, and emergency medical technicians were at Winsted City Hall Oct. 19, but fortunately, it was just a drill.
“Hopefully, we never have to go through anything like this,” Winsted Mayor Steve Stotko said after the training, which included a “shooting” and several “victims” who needed medical help.
The Winsted Police Department organizes an emergency medical services (EMS) drill annually, and scenarios vary each time. Police Chief Justin Heldt noted that he chose an active shooter situation because this type of training has not been conducted at city hall before.
Unfortunately, a real shooting occurred at a city hall in Minnesota earlier this year. In January, two new police officers had been sworn in during the New Hope city council meeting, and were confronted by a man with a gun when they left the council chambers. Both officers were wounded before returning fire and killing the suspect.
For the drill at Winsted City Hall Oct. 19, two volunteers masqueraded as shooters, armed with fake plastic guns.
Three volunteer victims pretended to be injured inside the council chambers, while two others feigned injuries elsewhere in city hall.
A dummy, surrounded by bullet casings, was positioned in the hallway with a gunshot wound to the head.
City council members, as well as a few city staff members, acted as observers inside the council chambers.
Winsted police officers arrived at the scene first, handcuffing the shooters and securing the building. A “suspicious” bag was found in the main entryway.
Winsted firefighters came soon after, helping to stabilize victims. When responders from McLeod County Emergency Management and Ridgeview Ambulance arrived, they lifted victims onto stretchers and pretended to transport them to the hospital.
After the drill, participants had a debriefing to go over what went well and what could have been improved.
The following day, city staff discussed the possibility of adding safety features to city hall, such as panic buttons, security cameras, and locking more doors, among other ideas.
“We got lot of good ideas out of the exercise,” City Administrator Dan Tienter said at Tuesday’s city council work session.
He noted that the city plans to develop an emergency preparedness plan, and to start conducting staff drills for tornados, fires, and bomb threats a few times per year.