POET Biorefining staged a full-scale emergency exercise on June 2, at its facility in Big Stone. The exercise included a hazmat spill and an active shooter. The Grant County Sheriff’s Department, Grant County Emergency Management, Big Stone City Police Department, Big Stone Fire, Big Stone County Emergency Management, Grant Roberts Ambulance from Milbank and Ortonville, and the Milbank Police Department participated in the event.
“The objectives of the exercise were to learn the proper response to an active shooter and hazmat situation, to make sure the plant communication works, and to make sure all responders work efficiently in this type of situation,” explained Senior Environmental Health and Safety Specialist for Poet, Janae Tostenson. Tostenson explained the drill began with a disgruntled chemical delivery driver entering the site in his truck. “The driver ran into another truck, causing his truck to leak chemical onto the ground.” She went on to explain that Poet summoned emergency personnel at that time to help contain the hazmat situation. “As Poet team members responded to the scene to check on the driver, the driver exited his truck with a gun and started to shoot while making his way to the scale house where he took five people as hostages. One hostage received a gunshot wound during the situation.”
The Grant County Sheriff’s Department, with the help of the Big Stone and Milbank Police departments, led the search of the facility. “They were able to locate the shooter and take control of the situation,” Tostenson said. She added, “In the end, there was a total of four victims. Three of them survived their wounds and one was DOA.”
The Grant Roberts Ambulance service from Milbank and Ortonville responded to the victims once the Grant County Sheriff’s Department gave the “All Clear.”
Following the completion of the drill, a Hot Wash was held to discuss the event. Tostenson, Sheryl Ward, Grant County Emergency Manager, and Grant County Sheriff Kevin Owen, led the planning and coordination of the event.