GR emergency official after WI parade crash: ‘No community is immune’

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Law enforcement agencies in West Michigan are taking precautions to protect upcoming parades after a car slammed into the crowd at an event in Wisconsin Sunday, killing at least five people and injuring dozens more.

“I felt heartbroken,” Allison Farole, Grand Rapids’ emergency management administrator, said about the crash in Waukesha. “I hope this doesn’t deter people from participating in community events.”

Farole was an emergency coordinator in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 when James Alex Fields, Jr. purposely drove his car through a crowd of demonstrators at a rally of white nationalists. One person was killed and 30 more injured.

“A lot of times we focus on active shooter or weapons in someone’s hands. It’s always a reminder that this isn’t the only weapons that are available,” Farole said Monday.

She learned valuable lessons during the attack in Charlottesville and has been using them to create better practices on how the city responds to any type of incident. It’s her goal to make sure that multiple people in various departments are in the conversation regarding the emergency management plan.

“We make sure we have the right people at the table. We have a lot of these discussions when we have special events. In addition to that, we do a lot of training and exercises throughout the year,” she said. “We’re not always thinking of a tornado. We are also thinking of special events and constantly watching what’s happening around the world.”

Leaders with city of Holland understand that too, which is why they are reinforcing precautions they already have in place as the city prepares for its annual Parade of Lights next week. The department will deploy additional resources and barricades the city has purchased within the last 5 years.

While it’s difficult to prevent any attack, Farole believes planning is still necessary and all communities should it take seriously.

“No community is immune to this kind of thing,” Farole said. “That’s the importance of getting every jurisdiction, every community in that planning phase when we have special events and really doing that coordination with event managers and making sure we know how the event is being set up and protected and also understanding the what-ifs that can happen and making sure we are being realistic of the potential bad things that can happen.”

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