NORTH ADAMS -- As the search for the second Boston Marathon bombing suspect was continuing Friday afternoon, local law enforcement officers were monitoring state communication channels for any indication that 19-year-old Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev was heading west.
"There's only so many ways to get out to New York from there," North Adams Police Lt. David Sacco said Friday afternoon, referring to the Boston-area town of Watertown, where much of the search for Tsarnaev took place. "We've been able to monitor everything as it happens -- blow-by-blow. If the suspect were to make his way out here, our orders to our officers would be to approach and hold him. We'd also call the Berkshire County Special Response Team (BCSRT) in for back up."
Four officers from the North Adams Police Department are assigned to the BCSRT, which is a special operations unit trained to handle a wide variety of tactical situations, including high-risk search and arrest warrants; wanted or escaped prisoners, barricaded subjects, hostage situations and riots.
"The BCSRT is the first and quickest to deploy within the county," Adams Police Sgt. Richard Tarsa said Friday. "We also have the ability to call in the State Police Special Tactical Operations (STOP) Team."
The State Police STOP Team is similar to the local BCSRT. The STOP Team includes officers trained in response to weapons of mass destruction and hazardous environments.
Federal and state law enforcement agencies locked down Watertown on Friday, telling people to stay in their homes, prohibiting motor vehicle traffic and halting public transportation in Boston, during the search for Tsarnaev. That "shelter in home" order was lifted Friday evening, a move that was quickly followed by a firefight and the news that authorities thought Tsarnaev was hiding in a covered boat in a Watertown yard. Following the firefight, he was reported by the Boston Police Department to be in custoday at roughly 8:45 p.m.
Although neither Sacco nor Tarsa had first-hand information about the search of Tsarnaev, both said the way the search was playing out Friday afternoon was similar to the way it would be handled if it happened in Northern Berkshire.
"What's great about Berkshire County is that you have resources all around you -- you're not just locked into what's available in your own town," Tarsa said. "North Adams had that [in 2008] during the attempted bank robbery."
While Northern Berkshire hasn't experienced a mass casualty event like Monday's bombing of the Boston Marathon, it doesn't mean that local law enforcement agencies aren't able to handle such an event. Both the North Adams and Adams police departments took part in the Northern Berkshire Regional Emergency Planning Committee's training on April 4, which simulated a multiple-vehicle accident. The training tested emergency responder skills and local Incident Command Systems (ICS) -- the way on-scene management is handled.
"The big advantage of trainings like these are the educational value of the exercise and the level of preparedness you come away from them with," Tarsa said. "You always want to be prepared for any situation. We're always learning something new, something we can do better or something we can do differently."
Most recently, the ICS protocols were put in place Thursday during a gas leak at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and last year during the response to Hurricane Sandy, Sacco said.
"It's different with a natural disaster like a hurricane because you have some type of warning," he said. "In the case of Hurricane Sandy, we were able to set up our command center at the North Adams Ambulance Service a day ahead of time and knew when we were going to open the shelter."
But in the case of an accident, the use of the ICS protocols comes into play a little differently than in a mock situation or table-top exercise.
"The system works and it works well," Sacco said. "But realistically, when something happens, our resources go to the scene and incident command falls into place out there. The management system allows for ‘organized chaos' and ensures that you don't have four different people calling out for the same resources."
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