BANGOR, Maine — Bangor police officers swept through vacant portions of the Bangor Daily News building Wednesday preparing for the worst.
The department’s Special Response Team trains twice per month and is constantly looking for new venues so members experience new situations each time, according to Sgt. Jason Stuart.
“No two callouts are the same, so you have to be ready for everything,” Stuart said.
On Wednesday, the unit suited up and ran drills based on a shooter and hostages inside the BDN basement offices and the former printing press area while BDN employees worked upstairs. Those parts of the building are mainly used for storage now.
The BDN building presented a wide breadth of challenges for officers — lots of doors and windows to clear, long lines of lockers and stacks of newspapers, storage cages, stairs, large, open industrial areas and shower rooms.
“This gives us the full range,” Sgt. Rob Angelo said.
Most of the officers had never been inside the building before, so they had to learn and adapt quickly in each drill. If something went wrong in a given exercise, officers reset, talked it through, and tried a different approach.
The BDN’s press area, which takes up the back portion of the building, went quiet in 1989 when the now-shuttered Hampden printing plant opened. The presses at the Main Street building were removed, leaving a large, vacant area inside the building.
SRT has 17 members — 11 operators and six medics who are employed with Bangor Fire Department, according to Angelo. Two of the 11 operators are snipers who didn’t attend Wednesdays drills, as they were working on training of their own.
Angelo said the team sometimes runs training sessions at Bangor High School. Before Bangor Housing Development Corp. tore down six First Street apartment buildings to make way for a new development, SRT got to sweep through the buildings during drills. Those buildings had an added advantage because officers got to batter down doors and knock out windows to make the drills that much more realistic.
One place SRT would like to do training in the future is Bangor’s biggest new addition — the Cross Insurance Center, Angelo said.