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Sauk County emergency drills aim to ensure 'muscle memory'

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Sauk County Emergency Management Director Jeff Jelinek speaks to fellow drill organizers after running six drills Friday at the Sauk County Courthouse and West Square Building to prepare for emergency scenarios.

The bang of gunshots rang through the halls of county buildings Friday in Baraboo.

Each shot was a blank, with no true threat to employees there, but the sound was meant to prepare them for the real thing if it were to ever happen, said Emergency Management Director Jeff Jelinek.

It was part of six drills aimed to help people prepare for scenarios where they may be in danger, from bomb threats to an active shooter or an intruder with a knife. Jelinek said the threat is real, with employees at the Human Services building in Reedsburg recently receiving a call from someone who claimed to be on their way to the location and threatened their lives with a handgun.

There is no goal for time, only to make sure everyone knows what to do and where to go.

“It’s not so much response time, we’re just looking to make sure they follow the plans,” Jelinek said.

Each department has a reference chart, he said. There are also kits with materials aimed to help control bleeding and barricade items like boards and rope, depending on the situation.

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A fake, makeshift pipe bomb sits Friday in a stairwell of the Sauk County Courthouse as part of one of six emergency drills.

One of the scenarios is a bomb threat. A calm voice announced over the speakers that everyone in each building needed to get out and where the fake bombs were placed in the building, thanks to the employees who received the call asking the right questions. Though organizers noted a number of employees were not working for the day, those who were there left the buildings calmly and walked to the designated meeting space.

Once all of the drills were completed during the morning hours with the oversight of city and county law enforcement and emergency management officials, Jelinek said a survey will be sent out to gain feedback from all participants on how well the drills were executed.

Jelinek also met with floor captains after convening with fellow organizers to discuss how well employees responded and to address issues, which included things like improper door barricades and a lack of emergency materials.

Training for these scenarios spans more than three hours each year. The focus is also on “muscle memory,” Jelinek said, which organizers agreed seemed to be implemented as floor captains oversaw the safety of their employees.

Some things, like a lack of awareness of fake explosive materials during the bomb threat evacuation, could use some work, organizers said. Communication could be better as well, organizers noted as they talked about reporting phone calls to let officials know everyone was accounted for at the emergency meeting space.

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Baraboo Fire Chief Kevin Stieve reports on the results of emergency drills Friday at the Sauk County Courthouse.

Baraboo Fire Chief Kevin Stieve, who also serves as emergency management director for the city, said nearly everyone seemed well prepared and only one or two departments seemed to need more materials or extra training to understand how they should respond.

“Overall I think it went pretty well,” Stieve said. “Some people probably skipped out on the day just because, but it sucks to be them if it really happens.”

Follow Bridget on Twitter @cookebridget or contact her at 608-745-3513.

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