First responders highlight technology advancements at Urban Shield exercise
Urban Shield exercises in the San Francisco Bay area not only provide first responders with unique operational training opportunities, but they also provide insights into new technological capabilities, according to two lieutenants on the department of public safety SWAT team for the city of Sunnyvale, Calif.
Emmett Larkin, a lieutenant with the Sunnyvale SWAT team, said Urban Shield participants this year were trained in more than 30 different simulated emergency scenarios in a 48-hour period during the weekend of Sept. 6-8.
“This is very important, because it allows us to test our tactics and our training, along with our physical and mental capabilities,” Larkin said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “It also allows us to test our equipment and our tools that we use on a daily basis for these operations. It verifies whether we’re doing things right or where we need to improve and where we need to get better—and, in some locations, where we just need to change the way we do business altogether.
“This type of training is something that you can’t replicate in a regular SWAT training day. You need this type of event—over the course of 48 hours, with very little sleep or rest—that’s physically challenging and mentally challenging.”
Larkin said he was especially impressed with a solution—provided in a joint effort by Mutualink, Oceus Networks and Sonim Technologies—used during an Urban Shield scenario that enabled responders to view video of actions inside a bus, where terrorists were holding passengers hostage.
“[Having the video] changes our tactics,” Larkin said. “Instead of having to send somebody into a structure and put them in harm’s way, it allows us to develop a game plan and be able to covertly enter the structure and come as close as we can to the individual that may be armed or looking to harm somebody. This helps us neutralize that before they are able to hurt themselves or somebody else.
“Having the live feed and providing that intel to our guys also gives us a layout of the structure inside, so we know exactly where we are going. It gives us an advantage over the suspect, who usually knows the territory or the structure that they’re in. Having that information is huge for us, and we can accomplish a lot of things just by watching some video.”
Tim Sartwell, another lieutenant with the Sunnyvale SWAT team, highlighted another technology used during an Urban Shield scenario.
“One of the other electronic devices that we used was for radiological detection in a simulated radiological theft from a business,” Sartwell said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “We were able to use these devices to tell us when the radiological stuff was too high for us to be in the room.
“We were able to commit our troops in there and able to extricate as soon as we realized that the device was emitting a lot radiological stuff into the air. Then, we were able to get our troops out after we completed the mission.”
Larkin said he has participated in six of the annual Urban Shield events and has seen the communications technology used to support first-responder efforts transform noticeably during that time period.
“[Technology has improved] phenomenally—not only at our department level but within our community and within the region,” he said. “This exercise has helped everybody get on the same page and be able to communicate with each other, in case there is a large region-type operation or a huge disaster, such as the earthquakes we had in California.
“It’s putting us all on the same page now, and we’re able—with these new systems of communication—to work interoperably to assist one another and figure out different agency needs, department needs and community needs. Communications have come a long way, and they are very valuable and helpful to us.”