Don't Miss Rob's First Post!

So why is Rob writing a blog anyway? Read here to find out.

Friday, April 20, 2012

A Visit From the President

President Obama addresses the crowd in Cannon Falls.
Photo by Jeffrey Thompson, Minnesota Public Radio News
It has got to be an interesting feeling when you hear that the White House advance team is rolling in to scout your city for a presidential visit. Things get even more interesting when you are Cannon Falls Police Chief Jeff McCormick, your lead time is a mere four days—and you are about to leave on an August vacation.

That vacation was put on hold as Jeff and his officers worked with the White House staff, Secret Service, and his regional law enforcement partners to assemble a team and implement a security plan. Fire Chief John Miller put together a plan that assigned an engine, tanker, and rescue to a staging area, while the firehouse was staffed by their mutual aid partners. 

Cannon Falls Ambulance Director Brenda Voshalike and supervisor Mike Althoff coordinated the EMS plan with the Secret Service that used four rigs—three of their own, while Northfield stood by to cover the “normal” calls in their service area. (Alhoff had also been scheduled to go on vacation.)

The event went off perfectly, with the president standing in front of the Cannon River in Hannah’s Bend Park, telling the crowd it was an “incredible setting.” Behind the scenes, the security plan was in action as local officers spotted a man attempting to get into the restricted area by using the river. One of the airboats being operated by the Sheriff’s office and DNR picked him up and turned him over to the Secret Service.

The officers also picked up on another person entering the restricted area, and it was seamlessly handled. The EMS plan kicked in when there was a medical emergency in the crowd—and having a doctor with the Cannon Falls crew allowed them to “hold” on the transport until cleared to leave by the Secret Service. The situational awareness was very high.

Members of the local security team begin the day.
Photo courtesy of Chief McCormick
The chiefs spent most of their time in the command center that had been set up in the city’s swimming pool office building. When asked about communications, Fire Chief Miller replied that it went well and commented that their new 800 MHz radio system “worked great.” After the president’s speech, the chiefs had the opportunity to meet him—and his staff photographed the moment. (This tradition has gone on for many presidencies.)

President Obama went on to stop for a quick sandwich at a local deli, and then it was over. As Miller remembers: “Twenty to 30 minutes after his bus left, it was all over.” When asked what they learned from the experience, Police Officer Steve Sutton-Brown (who had been on a counter-sniper team with the Secret Service and had arrived at the PD before sunrise) elicited laughter when he said, “I should have brought sunscreen.” Chief McCormick recalls ending the day with his daughter at her swimming lesson, and “that’s when [the day’s events] finally sank in.”

Once again, the common themes of relationships, teamwork, planning, communication, and a common operational platform made a very uncommon day memorable for all the right reasons. Congratulations to the Cannon Falls public safety team and all of their regional partners.


Responder Safety = Public Safety

Up next time…"Back by popular demand" (information on upcoming spring fireground workshops).

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.