MERRILLVILLE — The U.S. 30 and Broadway intersection is always bustling with activity, but it was particularly charged up Thursday morning.
With the Fannie May location there set for demolition, the Northwest Regional SWAT team had the opportunity to use the vacant facility for explosive entry training. The candy store is being razed to make way for a new CVS location and a new Fannie May facility.
The team used different explosive materials and techniques to practice a variety of detonations that could be used to gain access to a building during emergency situations, such as incidents involving hostages.
Team members said they hope there aren’t hostage situations in the area, but the training completed Thursday helps them to be prepared if such incidents occur.
Exercises completed Thursday took place inside the facility and on exterior walls, windows and doors.
The explosions were forceful enough to create openings in many areas of the building, but they also were very precise.
Merrillville Officer Robert Wiley, assistant team commander of Northwest Regional SWAT, said that precision is necessary so hostages inside a structure wouldn’t get injured.
In addition to gaining access to a facility, the explosive charges would confuse suspects in a building. That gives officers time to take control of a scene, Wiley said.
One training exercise involved using detonating cord placed on a piece of pink insulation board to break a strong window on the structure.
“There’s going to be little pieces of pink confetti everywhere,” Wiley said with a smile while preparing for the scenario.
There may have been some lighthearted comments during the activities, but the SWAT team took the training seriously.
After each exercise,it reviewed and the discussed the explosions.
The team also attempted to create a hole through a wall of the building using an explosive. If there were a hostage situation, establishing a gap in a wall would provide a place for an officer to observe the scene and have space for a firearm to control the situation while other officers entered the facility.
The exercise didn’t produce the result the team wanted. It left a gash in the wall, but the hole didn’t go through to the interior of the building.
Wiley said the situation still provided valuable knowledge because the team now knows it would have to use a different method to produce an opening needed to control a scene.
He said Northwest Regional SWAT, which is made up of officers from several area police departments, was appreciative for Thursday’s opportunity at the vacant Fannie May building because the team doesn’t have many chances to complete explosive entry training on actual structures.