Action on every floor
For the training exercises, the first floor of Tasku, from the main door to the first clothing stores, was closed with warning tape. In addition, the escalator leading to the second floor was closed. Many visitors watched the events from the second floor and from behind the tape on the first floor.
The first staged incident took place at the escalator: a girl had her hair stuck in the escalator. Within about ten minutes, an ambulance arrived on the scene to give first aid to the victim.
There is a simple reason why it took the ambulance so long to get there: they could only use the emergency warning lights near the centre. The same was true for the other operational services.
‘We are not allowed to drive with the alarm and lights as part of an exercise. A certain degree of safety must be maintained. That is why it took so long for the units to get here. Everyone came from different units and the calls were also given at different times,’ said Mikk Salumets, who led the exercise from the police side.
To make the situation more complicated, according to the scenario, a few moments after the first accident, armed men entered the building: one had a knife and another an automatic weapon. While the criminal with the knife injured customers at the KFC fast-food restaurant, the criminal with the firearm made his way to the old cinema rooms on the third floor of Tasku while shooting.
Once again, we should note that all these events were staged.
The policemen who arrived at the centre neutralised the criminal who had the knife with the help of a service dog. In addition to the victims, the scenario included people who interfered with the work of the emergency medical services and the police.
Events in neighbouring countries
According to Salumets, this was the first time that a training exercise was conducted while customers were still in the shopping centre. ‘As far as I know, this is the first time. But why did we do that? Although we live in a very safe country, these are the things that we need to train for. In neighbouring countries, we have seen that challenging events can happen. And the main goal of the exercises is to have very good communication at the case level on site,’ he commented.
Preparations for the exercises lasted about three months.
‘This is a 12-hour cooperation exercise. The preparations lasted around three months, where we received all kinds of approvals and the opportunity to do anything at all,’ Salumets went on to describe.
Although this time the exercises only took place in Tartu and Kambja county, the plan is to conduct similar kinds of cooperation exercises elsewhere too, if they succeed. ‘Last October, we did a similar exercise, but not on such a scale. Although there too was a scenario of an assault at a school, similarly to today,’ Salumets added.
Tartu Postimees | 7 March 2023
Photo: Jürgen Puistaja