Lucas Co. responders practice Homeland Security drills

(Toledo News Now) - Dozens of first responders in and around Lucas County are training Wednesday in case of a catastrophe.

Every day firefighters, police officers and emergency medical technicians get sent to emergencies, but Wednesday's Homeland Security training deals with situations that are less common.

At the Erie Street Market Wednesday morning, crews faced a fake bomb explosion. There were actors pretending to be injured or dead and the first responders had to decide what to do and who to take care of first.

Similar training exercises took place at the Maumee Training Center and Chemtrade Logistics in Oregon.

The goal is to make sure those on the front lines are ready for what could happen since the tragedies of 9/11. It is also about making sure they can communicate with other jurisdictions in times of chaos.

Not only are crews responding to mock bomb scenarios, but also hazmat spills and SWAT scenarios.

"It's something that we have to stay sharp on. It's something that we have to stay focused on every day. These are the types of incidents that we have to train to be ready to respond to," said Lt. Matthew Hertzfeld with the Toledo Fire Department.

The training took place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Liz Bergman showed up to work at the Toledo Farmers' Market only to see dozens of emergency crews taking over the parking lot.

"I saw stretchers out by the dock and I thought maybe they were fishing people out of the river. I thought maybe there was an accident there," said Bergman.

What was happening was not real. The first responders were taking part in a black swamp security exercise. In the pretend scenario, crews responded to an explosion inside the market, where actors pretended to be dead or hurt.

When it comes to training, firefighters said these drills are as close to the real thing as you can get.

"You can sit at a desk or at a table top and talk about things, but getting in the real world where it's going to happen helps us, as first responders, prepare," explained Hertzfeld.

Those taking part are from various agencies in Lucas County, including Toledo, Rossford and Maumee.

Since 9/11 these agencies have worked out kinks in communicating over the radios. Wednesday's exercises tested it.

"With these upgrades to the radio systems that we've had in the last few years, that helps us.  That allows us to communicate with different jurisdictions where we had some difficulty and trouble before doing that," said Hertzfeld.

While Bergman goes about her business at the market, she said she is relieved to know someone is training to keep her safe.

"Anytime we're prepared is a good thing, especially in this day in age. You never know what's going to happen," said Bergman.

The money to cover this training came from a special U.S. Department of Homeland Security grant.

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