May 8, 2017-Tomorrow morning residents will see a large military, police and emergency responder presence throughout Lake County as a large disaster drill is conducted. The drill actually started today but will kick into high gear tomorrow as a huey helicopter will land at Methodist Hospital North Lake Tomorrow morning. The Radisson Hotel and Rte 30 and I-65. Merrillville Deputy Fire Chief Jim Lilley described the program as a “once in a lifetime” type of training opportunity. He said the Fire Department has participated in exercises at vacant facilities in the past, but “nothing to this magnitude.” Traffic may be affected and many residents will be taken off guard as little press has been given to the event. “This is going to play out like a real-world event” Deputy Chief Lilley said.
UPDATE: According to a statement from the Indiana National Guard, From May 6 through 12, local, state and federal first-responder organizations will conduct United Front 2017, a disaster-response, training exercise at the site of the Radisson Hotel at Star Plaza.
White Lodging made the venue available for the large, full-scale training exercise prior to completing full demolition of the site, which is now underway. The training operation will simulate a collapsed building from a tornado.
The purpose of the training is to increase unit readiness, response capabilities, and interoperability with international, governmental and nongovernmental organizations.
Local businesses and the general public can expect to see an increase of traffic on Interstate 65, U.S. 30, and Broadway Street as approximately 350 training participants contribute to the typical traffic throughout Merrillville and Crown Point. The public should also expect to see a high number of military and emergency response vehicles in the area, particularly near the Radisson Hotel at Star Plaza.
The focus of this year’s exercise is to build partnership capacity between participants through this multi-organizational event. The exercise will bring high-level training to local first responders, particularly the Indiana District 1 Urban Search and Rescue/Technical Rescue Team. It is an opportunity for members of the military and local responders to share best practices for critical tactics, techniques and procedures in response to natural disasters.
Exercise participants include:
• Merrillville Fire and Police Departments
• Crown Point Fire Rescue
• Indiana District 1 Task Force
• Lake County Emergency Management Agency
• District 1 Hospital Emergency Planning Committee
• Northwest Indiana Information Sharing Security Alliance
• United States Marine Corps Chemical Biological Incident Response Force
• Indiana Task Force 1
• Indiana National Guard
• Ohio National Guard
• Illinois National Guard
• Chicago Emergency Management