Real-life battle to protect Hoosiers against an attack takes time, training

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MADISON, Indiana – The real-life battle to keep us safe is much different than what you see on ‘24’ and other hit TV shows.

Recently, FOX59 was invited to a special training session involving police officers from several different departments in southern Indiana.

Officers learned all about weapons of mass destruction, chemical exposure, and other dangerous scenarios you don’t even want to imagine.

“When we use the phrase weapons of mass destruction it means chemical, biological, radiological or improvised explosive devices,” said Lighthouse Readiness Group consultant Jay Dotson, who led the training session we attended.

Officers start by learning how to put on a chemical suit–extra equipment that takes some getting used to.

So they practice how to protect their weapon, or draw and fire while wearing heavy chemical-protective suits.

“This is actually great training, it’s very beneficial,” said Sgt. Keith Messer with the North Vernon Police Department. “Usually our training consists of apprehending a suspect. (This is) something we don’t encounter on a day-to-day basis.”

“One of the things we remind the officers is that this doesn’t only affect a WMD incident,” said Dotson. “It could also affect a chemical spill from a train derailment or a truck that’s overturned.”

Or an industrial chemical spill like the one in late March at the Rolls Royce plant on the west side of Indianapolis, when several employees were taken to the hospital after being exposed to a potentially dangerous acid.

“If something we’re doing is worth training on, it’s worth talking about on a regular basis,” said Dotson.

“Every agency around the state should be doing this,” said Messer. “It’s valuable training.”

So why aren’t more agencies doing this kind of training?

“Every department, regardless of their size, has a smaller budget now and it hasn’t been a huge priority,” said Dotson. “It’s not so much that it hasn’t been offered, there really hasn’t been a request for it and I think some of that is because we’ve seen little since September 11.”

But those in charge of the training say last year’s bombing in Boston shows how every agency still needs to be prepared.

“There are some agencies in the state of Indiana that have done a really good job of doing this training on their own,” said Dotson. “What we could do better as a whole is be more aware.”

Trainers are hoping to be able to teach this class to more officers around the state. Grant money helps pays for some of that training and experience–training they hope they never have to use.

“There are some things we are way more prepared for in that area than we were 12-14 years ago but we can always get better,” said Dotson. “If we can find those weaknesses, then we can better prepared if it actually happens.”