Plano police use donated helicopter for sky-high training
PLANO, Texas (AP) — One by one, the SWAT officers climbed out of the helicopter and slid down a rope to the roof of the one-story building at Toyota’s headquarters.
The Dallas Morning News reports within a minute, all eight were on the roof, weapons drawn and ready for a possible threat. Then it was time to reload and repeat.
A fast-rope exercise that took months of planning went off without a hitch Monday at three locations in Plano.
“We don’t always have the option of going in the front door,” said Officer Mike Bogacki, an 18-year veteran of the Plano police SWAT team.
As the suburban city of 285,000 continues to add high-rise buildings, first responders have to adapt and train using new scenarios.
“Plano is no longer growing horizontally,” Bogacki said. “It’s growing vertically, and we need to meet that challenge.”
This was the second time that Plano’s elite team has trained with a helicopter. The first came two years ago.
The Plano Police Department doesn’t own a helicopter, spokesman David Tilley said.
Instead, the department tapped the generosity of the aerial crane service that’s typically delivering massive air conditioners and other supplies to rooftops around the region. Fate-based 5 State Helicopters Inc. donated the pilot, fuel and use of the helicopter for Monday’s exercise.
The other practice sites were Fire Station No. 4 and the Spear Street Capital building in west Plano.
SWAT team training needs to be as realistic as possible, said Bogacki, citing a common catchphrase among first responders who are “training for the speed of life.”
The key to a successful drop is a tight grip on the 40-foot rope with their hands and feet to ensure a controlled descent. No harnesses. No safety nets.
“Some people say it’s dangerous,” Bogacki said. “We say it’s exciting and pretty dynamic.
“But we believe it’s essential for the training.”
Information from: The Dallas Morning News, http://www.dallasnews.com