Drill tests Merck employees and SWAT team - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Drill tests Merck employees and SWAT team

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August 18, 2004

Dougherty County -- Workplace violence has become part of a training exercise at one Albany business. Employees at Albany's Merck Flint River Plant and local law enforcement come face to face with a hostage taker.

A little before 9, Police surround Merck's Flint River Plant. It's just a drill, but the employees were caught by surprise. Merck Emergency Coordinator Kenny Cribb said "You can imagine the shock that they had when they started hearing the simulated gunshots going off."

Merck Financial Services employee Paula Heavener said "I was heading back into our little kitchen area to fill up my water jug, and I was taken hostage at that time."

A security guard being fired goes beserk, shooting eight employees, killing several, taking three hostages. Merck Factory Operations Superintendent Todd Behne said "He just said you are a hostage now, and you are part of this drill."

 The Special Response SWAT Team also was not told about the drill until it started. Assistant Albany Police Chief Bob Boren said "Surprise element is what we look for. How they react, how they respond. How long it takes them to get here."

A sniper takes aim. The rest of the team starts to move in. Special Response Team Reggie French said "We had a suspect holding several people hostage. He had used deadly force resulting in the death of several people inside."

Negotiations with the gunman fail, so the SWAT team moves in.

Special Response Team Corporal Rob McAllister said "We worked our way down to the conference room, when we heard shots fired. We were given the green light, that's when we took the room, took the suspect down."

The gunman is captured, the hostages freed. Behne said "Listening to the negotiations, and when they all came crashing into the room at the end it was real interesting."

Merck Financial Services employee Paula Heavener said "You can't really imagine actually what would happen if something like this did occur, and how people truly would react."

The SWAT team members say this training is vital. Special Response Team Corporal Rob McAllister said "You learn something every time. You learn about your equipment. What is going to go wrong will go wrong. We'd rather learn during training than in an actual real life situation."

Merck holds emergency drills every year, but feel this scenario helped their employees and local law enforcement. Special Response Team Corporal Greg Elder said "This could occur in this city. It has in the past, and we are doing our best to be ready for the day to come."

If it does, this experience could be a life saver.

 Merck Safety officers will teach their employees to stay out of danger in such an event again. How to escape, or lock themselves in offices and hide.

posted at 4:30 PM by jimw@walb.com