Terror response drilled at Cass Fairground

Published 8:28 am Thursday, June 26, 2003

By By JOHN EBY / Dowagiac Daily News
CASSOPOLIS -- The Cass County Fairground wasn't itself Tuesday night.
A plume of propane-fueled flame, moaning burn victims writhing on the grass along the midway at the entrance to Kiddie Land, wailing hostages, a corral full of cop cars, the sound of "gunfire" and pina colada-scented "smoke" rolling out from beneath the grandstand were all clues that full-scale terrorism response training was in progress.
The fairground wasn't itself because it was a factory erupting in workplace violence, tanks exploding that firefighters had to extinguish and gurneys to be loaded for transport to Borgess-Lee Memorial Hospital where bad guys continued to cause mayhem during treatment.
It was like a three-ring circus of disaster exercises to test the capabilities of Cass County's emergency response system.
About 120 people from across the county participated.
Red Cross provided water and juice to keep responders hydrated on what turned out to be the hottest day of the year, in the 90s.
Law enforcement, for example, including Sheriff Joe Underwood and his deputies, Michigan State Police troopers and Dowagiac Police Department officers, reviewed afterward.
Officers had flashlights, but they didn't afford much visibility in the smoky interior.
Johnie Rodebush, chairman of the Board of Commissioners, was taken hostage.