No Need to Improve Security at Great Lakes Crossings –We’re Already There

If you are a news watcher, you are probably aware that there has been a report that an ISIL group released a video over the weekend suggesting that someone should attack shopping malls in America.  There has not been a specific threat against any mall in Michigan.

Given the world we live in, we think about this sort of thing all the time, even absent any specific threat.  You might recall that we have officers who work from a substation right in the Great Lakes Crossings Mall.  We just had a full scale exercise in September where we practiced our response to a violent event at the mall with our partners from FBI and other local agencies.  We work in close partnership with mall security personnel.  We familiarize our personnel with the warning signs.  SeeSay_830x250_Indiana NO BUTTON

I think Great Lakes is safe — I’ll continue to shop there myself.  But I encourage you to help us –if you “SEE SOMETHING -SAY SOMETHING” –always, everywhere.  When I shop, when I travel, when I attend events, wherever I am I pay attention to my surroundings.  You should too.

Here are some suggestions from the Department of Homeland Security.

What is Suspicious Activity? | Homeland Security.

Emergency Medical Dispatch has Changed the Way We Respond

You might recall that earlier this year we made a move to Emergency Medical Dispatch.  We purchased a nationally known software package developed by emergency medical personnel to direct our dispatchers more effectively in how to deal with callers with medical emergencies.  It is a system used around the country.   In the past, we did not give medical directions like how to conduct CPR or other lifesaving, we transferred the caller to STAR EMS our partners in emergency medical service.  Now that we are flying solo with respect to delivery of EMS services, we needed to make this change.  Along the way we also made a change to Emergency Fire Dispatch to improve how we are handing fire calls.

We have had extensive training and our personnel are operational on a software program called Pro-QA.  It is the highest quality software system we could find in the country and the one accepted by Oakland County Medical Control Authority–the rule setting body for emergency medical services in our county.  It is an automated tool to provide the very best in pre-hospital patient care. During the course of an emergency medical call, ProQA guides the process of collecting the vital information from the caller, obtaining the patient’s status, choosing an appropriate dispatch level, and instructing the caller with medically approved protocols until the dispatched units arrive at the scene.


This is what the text we get looks like. The call is an M or medical. The 06 tells the EMS rig what the medical problem category is, the C code means a mid level response –D and E are lights and sirens and police are sent–the most serious calls. The 3R tells us who is being sent-Rescue 3 is the dispatched unit. Then the address. We click on the https:// link and the dispatch card with more details pops up and we get another link to a Google map to the location.

One aspect that our callers will need to adjust to is that we no longer runs lights and sirens to calls that don’t have potential as a serious medical issue as we did in the past.  The dispatchers ask many more questions as directed by the software to gain information about the patient’s status.  They are typing the answers to the questions into the software which is being read by the radio operator who is dispatching the units.  The units in the field are also receiving a text message that is updating with the answers to the questions.  You can see an example at right.

It is a highly technical system and we like it.

You might not like it as well if you don’t understand it particularly when you are a caller.  You may become frustrated when the call taker keeps asking questions and you may get the idea that no one is being sent to you.  At a certain point in the conversation when we have enough information, the units are dispatched even though the call taker is still on the line with you.

See a demo of the software here of a medical call.  Note that there is a timer on the screen.  Every dispatcher is timed for each call and later evaluated.   Our goal is to achieve the fastest possible call processing time by each dispatcher while maintaining accuracy.

We also purchased the software for Emergency Fire Dispatch to improve our method for dispatching fire.

See a demo of the software here of a fire call.

We are changing to do the very best for you.

Mall Exercise Last Night

We had an EXCELLENT training event last night at Great Lakes Crossings Mall.  It was a full-scale event involving people who played roles as the bad guys AKA active shooters, press people, wounded victims.  Most of us, including me, played our own roles–what we would do in the event of an incident like this.  FBI was there.  Oakland County Homeland Security,
Great Lakes Crossings Security, other police agencies with officers trained to respond to this kind of event, Oakland County Sheriff’s Office swat team members–all in all more than 300 people.  Even the Salvation Army came out to help with coffee and hot dogs for the participants in that cold, cold rain.

Lt Miarka briefing the teams in staging prior to event start.

Lt Miarka briefing the teams in staging prior to event start.

Of course, there are always unexpected things that happen.  Like the rollover freeway crash on southbound I-75 right at the time the mall traffic was exiting.  We had to close the freeway ramp at Joslyn for a while so as not to add to the traffic jam since we had to close some lanes for a time.  Then another injury crash came in north of the mall area in a subdivision and we had to divert units there.  So we got started a little late.  Not to mention that yesterday was a looonnnggg day for our Fire Department.  Deputy Director Manning, Assistant Chief Macias and many of our personnel were on the scene of the tornado hit in Rochester Hills as mutual aid beginning at about 6:30 am.  And it was a cold, dank rain.  But that is just what life is like–we operate in the real world so there is no idea of postponing for any reason.

I admit that it was chilling listening to the original dispatch of armed men in the mall and an officer down.  I was sitting in a vehicle with Deputy Director Hardesty waiting to be deployed.  Deputy Director Manning was in his vehicle parked behind us, also waiting.  There is a system to the response on an event like this and we have all been trained extensively.  We use the federal National Incident Management System developed by FEMA after 9/11 to organize ourselves and make it possible for agencies to work together.  My job was to establish an incident command post taking over command of the overall incident and assisting the operational command post staffed by sergeants on scene, so that we deal with the next level of the incident.  There is a great deal to be done.  At first we waited silently listening to the dispatch and the response of the initial officers–after a while training takes over and you begin to think about what needs to be done, by whom and when.  In the initial phases we have limited resources so there was only a handful of us at the command post level to deal with everything from city elected officials who are calling wanting information, to the media and public information, to the needs of reunification of people and victims involved in the event, to the investigation (it is a big crime scene, remember?), as well as the overall fire and rescue aspects.  The event is dynamic and moving very quickly.

Overall it was a big success.  Whenever we do it we learn some things that we think we can do better next time.  We had lots of observers watching and evaluating us.  We’ll get that information assembled in the coming days so that we can review it and consider specific improvements.  But I think we did well overall.  One of the things we wanted to test was the Rescue Task Force.  We recently developed and trained our fire and police personnel to respond together to a “warm” zone  (not totally safe) to treat injured.  We are the first ones in this region to take up this new aspect.  We decided to do it because in some of these incidents like the LAX shooting, Aurora theater and others, victims have died while waiting for medical help because they were down in an unsecured area.  Traditional fire training puts medics in a triage area away from the action with the police bringing victims out.  Of our team of medics, 14 volunteered for the training –they are not armed but they wear ballistic helmets and bullet resistant vests and are guarded by police as they enter “warm” and even “hot” zones to locate and give basic treatment.  We had some local fire chiefs on hand to observe that aspect.

Firefighters gearing up as a rescue task force.

Firefighters gearing up as a rescue task force.

Lt. Miarka, who with assistance from FBI personnel, Oakland Sheriff’s Office and others, set up this mammoth undertaking which took about a year to plan.  He was here early this am, just like usual–( he looks a little tired though.)  Part of the planning was his extensive study of mall shootings around the country to learn what other police said about what happened and how they dealt with it.  He shared with us what he learned.  The event was modeled on some of the other events.  The bad guys keep morphing their techniques and we must do the same.

Rescue task force in action. Officers guarding medics who are helping victims.

Rescue task force in action. Officers guarding medics who are helping victims.

Great Lakes Crossings Mall is a very safe environment, precisely because they enthusiastically partner with us to train and practice for an event we pray we never have to meet.

Even Fox 2 came out to report on our training.

M59 Road Closure

I hope you weren’t one of the people who was caught up in the M59 road closure this morning.  It started from a truck that hit a power wire hanging low across the freeway at about 0250 this morning.  We moved as quickly as possible to notify as many people as we could.  Of course we talked to the Michigan Department of Transportation, the Road commission for Oakland County, DTE, Chrysler, Oakland University(large commuter populations).  We sent out media information and on Twitter (@AHPOLICE) and NIXLE.  We wanted you to know that the road had to be closed so that you could consider a different route to where you needed to go that didn’t include that stretch of M59.  image5_

Since early this morning our sergeant has been a participant in a command post that includes MDOT, RCOC, DTE and ITC (the power line company).  Their job is to coordinate what to do that fixes the problem but disrupts the least number of people.  We have trained with MDOT and RCOC for just this kind of thing–a program called Traffic Incident Management or Highway Incident Management.  It is called up whenever there is a major event or incident causing an impact to the roadway system.  The idea has been around for a while and is used in many other states.  It brings together the people and entities charged with management of the roadway system as well as the resources needed to fix the problem.  Those big freeway signs and the MI DRIVE are all part of this system.  In this case we had to consider what works for the road users as well as for the people who are without power as a result of the incident.

We expect that we will be able to open the freeway shortly although it will have to be closed at some future point soon to restring the wire.  Most likely after rush hour. I know that restoration of power to residents and businesses is another high priority for which contingent plans are being made right now.  Stay tuned to your local media outlet or our social media for updates.

We practice this kind of thing on a regular basis.  On days like today our training pays off.

Something New!

ChiefI’ve decided to expand my media activities to include podcasting.  I’m a podcast listener myself so I am very familiar with the idea of using podcasts to share information.   These are brief bits of information on topics you care about in our community.

So this is my first one and we expect to have several more in the next few months that will be posted here and on the website.   We’ll be adding some video podcasts as well that will feature some of our exceptional staff on a variety of topics.

I hope that you find them useful.

Snow Emergencies

Winter Is Here For Sure

I hope your holidays were were fun, restful and full of great times with your family and friends.  As we all know, winter is here in Michigan.  We’ve just weathered one storm and are heading into another this weekend.  winter-storm-safety-copy1

The snow will be starting about 8 pm Saturday night (tomorrow) and will continue all night into Sunday.  We suggest that you look ahead and prepare for the storm.  Make sure you have adequate medicine supplies, food, milk or whatever you need for a couple of days. is great site to help you.

Our city road crews have a great plan to get the roads plowed as quickly as possible.  If you live in one of our neighborhoods, please don’t park any vehicles on the roadway so that the plow trucks can work efficiently.  We’ll be sending officers out to knock on your doors to get those cars moved.  We also have officers clear the roadway edges on the freeways so that the county trucks can work unobstructed.

We are also bringing in more  firefighters to be available if needed to help folks with medical emergencies, call on our seniors or fight fires if we need them.

Follow our Facebook and Twitter for information on road closings or other useful information.

Predictable weather events put us in major planning mode- we’ll be paying close attention to the conditions.  If you can stay home, I suggest that you do.

Only 2 more months of winter to go…..

Crowdsourcing in Emergency Managment

FEMA -Federal Emergency Management Administration has added a new app on the Android platform which “crowdsources” data in emergency situations.  One of the biggest issues after a big emergency situation like a tornado, wildfire or other similar disruptive event is getting damage information.  It is very difficult to get information which is used to help responders figure out where to send their resources first.

The app’s major new feature is called “Disaster Reporter,” which allows users to submit disaster-related images to be publicly hosted on the FEMA website. You can add short text descriptions to photos, which then go through a basic approval process to ensure images are relevant and do not disclose any user’s personal information. The images are then posted on a map for public viewing.

FEMA Director Craig Fugate says:  “The public is a resource and oftentimes the initial and first reports we get are people putting up information, from tweets, from Flickr,” Fugate said. “Rather than waiting for that to come up, they would be doing that in the app that will allow it to be shared with other responders.”

I downloaded it to my phone. I think it could help in a disaster scenario.

“Be a Force of Nature”

Guest Blogger: Lieutenant Ryan Gagnonlightning

I consider myself a bit of a “weather geek” and enjoy tracking the weather and storms as they roll through the area from time to time.  This week our nation’s attention has turned to the people of Moore, Oklahoma and the tragedies they have suffered as a result of the tornado.  My thoughts and prayers are with those families who lost loved ones and for many of them young children as a result of this storm.  I can not imagine what those families are going through.

It does make us pause for a moment and consider what things we can prepare for in the event of severe weather.  If you haven’t thought about it, now is a good time to consider what measures you can take at home or at work to be prepared.  Do you know the safest location in your home to go to in the event of a tornado?  What if you are driving, what would you do?  Are you prepared for prolonged power outages or damage to your home?  Have you discussed these things with your family or children?  It is always better to have a plan in place now than to try to deal with things after they happen.

Here in the City of Auburn Hills we continue to update and practice our emergency operation plans.  We recently conducted training exercises with all departments in the city for a severe weather incident.  All of the departments work very well together as a team and will be prepared to deliver the best possible service in the event of a major emergency or disaster.

An important part of your personal preparedness is to not always depend on someone else for immediate assistance.  Depending on the scope of the problem, assistance will be prioritized by saving and preserving life first and then assisting others as more resources are put into place.  In the event of a disaster, FEMA recommends that people should be prepared to sustain themselves for up to 72 hours.  This includes enough food, water, and temporary shelter.  The following links provide some additional information for all of us to stay prepared and “be a force of nature” to assist others in time of need.

Please take a moment to seriously discuss and consider a plan of action for family.  Reach out to your neighbors and those around who may not be able to provide for themselves.

Stay Safe

Our Prayers for the Families of Those Killed and Those Injured in the Boston Marathon Bombing

Their faces tell their story

Like  you I am horrified by the events in Boston.Several years ago I was in Boston for the International Chiefs of Police Annual Conference.  As a part of the event I participated in the Boston Foot Chase, a 5k race through Boston that started in Copley Square and we finished down the same stretch as the Marathon.  It was a thrill to cross that same finish line which is painted on the street and which I saw again yesterday in the news coverage.  I am saddened by what has happened and angry at this despicable crime no doubt perpetrated by someone wanted to make some twisted point.

While I am not an anti terror specialist I am highly confident that the responsible person or persons will be located and brought to justice.  There is a significant amount of evidence that can be gathered from the bomb’s “fingerprints” which point to who made the bomb since bomb makers tend to have individualized methods.  I know that the investigation is working at high-speed.  The investigators must follow the evidence while at the same time remembering the rights of accused persons because we are a democratic society.  That is a very tough balance to find sometimes but I know they are doing their best.

As a department responsible for security at large public events we are highly conscious of that balance between security and helping event organizers create a fun atmosphere.  As recently as the NCAA event at the Palace last month we were confronted by that very issue.  We do extensive planning for weeks in advance of that type of event.  We know that event attendees sometimes resent security searches and don’t like entry delays.  But we are responsible for a safe event so we do our best to find the balance.  We use dog searches of the venue before events of this type and even require deliveries of fuel or any type of hazardous materials be scheduled in advance of the event or event loading because of the dangers that can present.  We try to think of everything.  We train, train, and train again for both detection and response.  We plan and train with other agencies both public and private as often as we can.

Watching video of the police, fire and EMS response was simply amazing.  I thought they were exceptional and I’m sure they saved many people–they were moving toward the blast locations even as they were fighting through their own shock response.  Lt McDonnell pointed out to me this morning how many of them could be seen to be sending what appeared to be quick texts on their cell phones –to tell families they were safe no doubt, and that they would not be home for the foreseeable future.  I understand all of the off duty police in Boston and neighboring communities were called to work immediately.  I can tell you from experience on even lesser events, police and fire don’t wait to be called –they just come in because they know we’ll need them.  I’m sure it is the same in Boston.

I also know that at these times there are rumors circulating at light speed.  Media sources are often reporting unsubstantiated information as “facts” that can have the effect of exacerbating the situation.  For example, I heard a local reporter last night talking about Boston and reporting that authorities there had shut down the cell phone grid as a security measure in the initial aftermath.  I find that hard to believe that in the midst of a crisis response like that such a thing could be accomplished–those are privately owned networks–not controlled by the police.  A more likely scenario to me is that the cell phone system, which has finite capacity, was overwhelmed.  It happens to us on occasion when there is a big crash on the freeway and everyone is on the system trying to call us or to call home to tell someone where they are.  The system simply can’t handle it. Our public safety radios become the only reliable communication that we have and our plans never include use of the public cell phone systems to communicate during a response because it won’t be available.  Here is an article today on that topic.

I’m sure that the story will unfold in the days and weeks to come.  Our best defense comes from people who report suspicious activities to us.  If you “see something, say something” call us and give us a chance to prevent an event like yesterday.