Law enforcers, rescuers rise to the (Excelsior) Challenge

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WHITESTOWN — Thanks to a new law passed in New York State just last year, injured dogs can now be taken to a veterinarian in a human ambulance. This added level of emergency care is key when a police K-9 is injured in the line of duty.

And it’s why K-9 trauma training scenarios were one of several new additions to the annual Excelsior Challenge at the New York State Preparedness Training Center in Whitestown.

The K-9 trauma training was one of seven simultaneous exercises that took place nearly each day this week at the annual gathering of law enforcement officers.

While various training occurs year-round at the Center, the Excelsior Challenge specifically brings together K-9 crews, bomb squads and SWAT teams from across the state to train together. Also new this year, the Challenge has added emergency medical technicians to the training scenarios.

Local EMTs can now train how to enter a hot zone and rescue injured people even while law enforcement is still actively fighting any bad guys.

“It’s a beautiful facility, and they have so much stuff that we can utilize,” said Capt. Larry Hendrickson of the Binghamton Police Department, who is commander for the Metro SWAT team in the greater Binghamton area.

Hendrickson said he has been in SWAT for 20 years and has trained at the Center several times.

“It has gotten to a level where the training is so realistic,” he said. “That makes it so much easier for us to take care of these incidents.”

The Utica Police, New
Hartford Police and the
Oneida County Sheriff’s Office were among the more than 30 departments at the Preparedness Center this week, along with some EMTs from the New Hartford Police Department.

The training scenarios are modeled after real world terrorist attacks and are focused on cooperation between different state agencies.

There are active shooter scenarios, suicide bomber scenarios, hostage situations and more.

“We chose the scenarios based on what’s happening in the real world,” said Bob Stallman, assistant director at the Preparedness Center. “We need to be prepared for that.”

Along with adding EMS participants and K-9 trauma rescue scenario, this year’s Excelsior Challenge also saw the first use of the NY Responds system, including the Mutualink, which enhances on-site incident management. Stallman said the in-field officers are able to use cell phones and other cameras to relay information immediately back to command officers, providing real-time coverage of an unfolding event.

“The technology of today is great, and we’re trying to make sure we are as prepared as possible,” Stallman said.

This year also included students from the first year of SUNY Albany’s College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity. The students were included in the exercise briefings, and served as role players in each of the scenarios.

Stallman said the Preparedness Center plans to continue the Excelsior Challenge as an annual event, adding more scenarios and training every year.

No real dogs were harmed during the training exercise.

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