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Law agencies in Gainesville, Hall train for hostage crisis
Fire, police officials pleased with results from exercise
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Gainesville and Hall County authorities got a glimpse Friday morning of what it's like to respond to a dangerous hostage situation.

Joe Britte, public information officer for the Gainesville Police Department, said the training involved a suspect opening fire in the waiting room of Lanier Park Hospital in Gainesville, injuring multiple people.

Along with the police department, the Gainesville Fire Department, Hall County Fire Services, Georgia State Patrol, Hall County Sheriff's Office and Northeast Georgia Medical Center security department participated in the simulated scenario.

"It went great," Britte said. "The efforts by all agencies were great and we, of course, critiqued everything we did and took notes."

The training was held to ensure the various agencies are in unison when it comes to a large-scale threat. Police officers and sheriff's deputies responded to prevent the gun-wielding suspect from causing more harm and fire and emergency service personnel responded to transport the multiple victims as quickly as possible.

A Georgia State Patrol helicopter was used to provide air support.

This was the first such training exercise this year and more are expected after the agencies make improvements to the initial response.

Each of the agencies involved was satisfied with the outcome of their response. Though an after-action report has not been completed, the agencies identified various areas of improvement for future exercises.

"I think overall it went well," Hall Fire Chief David Kimbrell said. "We identified a couple things as far as radio traffic that we could improve on, but none of our people got hurt in the scenario."

"The overall goal of training exercises like this is to find out what works and what doesn't," said Sgt. Stephen Wilbanks of the sheriff's office. "And when something comes up that needs to be addressed, then in a future exercise that might be tried out."

Gainesville Fire Chief Jon Canada said a large-scale incident involving multiple agencies often can lead to confusion, but those involved Friday managed to effectively coordinate the response.

Although the fire department often works with Hall County, it does not often work side-by-side with the law enforcement agencies.

"Incorporating law enforcement into that from Hall County and Gainesville put a different perspective on each agency in what their role was and then working together to take care of the two different aspects," Canada said.

"You always can pick up and figure out things that you can do better and work with other agencies better and even among yourselves to test your own skills."

Canada said Friday's exercise allowed emergency responder to implement techniques learned from other training activities conducted throughout the year.

"A training exercise like this allows them to put that training to use and then see those areas we can work on."

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