Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

Will public, private parternship go countywide?

by Chris Schultz

July 25, 2013

The private-public partnership program started in Lake Geneva earlier this year is intended to expand to other communities in Walworth County, said Lake Geneva Fire Capt. John Peters, who is also head of the city’s emergency management.

And it appears it’s starting to attract attention.

The goal of the public private partnership is to increase communications between businesses and emergency services, including police, fire and ambulance medical services.

During the June 19 meeting, businesses from Elkhorn and Delavan were present, as was a police officer from Elkhorn.

Elkhorn Police Chief Joel Christensen said, however, that the officer was there primarily to learn more about the Nixle program, which the Lake Geneva Police Department is using to post public safety updates on residents’ mobiles and computers.

“Obviously, we would like to do more,” Peters said in a recent interview. “The bigger picture has always been to make it countywide.”

Peters said growth of the program to outside Lake Geneva was the goal from the beginning when he first met with Ben Schliesman from the state emergency management and Walworth County Sheriff’s Lt. John Ennis to set up the program.

“I’m always about partnering, because that’s how we win,” he said.

Peters said he’s based the Lake Geneva program on one that Kenosha County has since created.

The group now has a steering committee made up local business people.

Tammy Carstensen, manager of Harbor Shores, chairs the partnership’s steering committee.

She said she appreciates the increased communication between emergency services and businesses.

“Hopefully, we will all be a step ahead,” Carstensen said. “I hope we will all be better informed. We need to be prepared.”

At the public/private partnership’s meeting last month at the Riviera, preparedness was a major issue, especially to deal with extreme circumstances.

Mitch Ross, Milwaukee police officer and a liaison with Milwaukee’s federal Intelligence Fusion Center, presented information about remaining safe from workplace violence, in particular, active shooters and bomb threats.

Active shooters are rare here and terrorism, domestic and otherwise, almost unheard of, said Ross.

That doesn’t mean local businesses and residents shouldn’t be aware that these things may happen, he added.

Active shooters range in age from 11 to senior citizen, said Ross. Their motivations are many and varied, personal, psychological, financial, political and even religious.

And there is no way to predict who will be an active shooter until the person starts shooting, he said.

The three basic rules for an active shooter are:

n Evacuate the building.

Have an escape route and plan in mind and leave your belongings behind.

n Hide. If you can’t evacuate, hide in an area out of the shooter’s view. Block entry to your hiding place. Lock the doors if possible.

n Fight, but only if you can’t hide or run away.

This is a last resort and only if your life is in danger.

Ross said that if those threatened by an active shooter need to fight, make every attempt to incapacitate the shooter. Act with extreme aggression and assault the shooter by throwing things or using heavy objects as bludgeons, he said. There is no such thing as fighting fair.

Also at the meeting were Milwaukee bomb squad members officers Dan Thompson and Mick Chemlick.

While bombings are infrequent in Walworth County, bomb threats are made occasionally.

Thompson said if the bomb threat is called in, keep the person on the line get as long as possible to get as much information as possible. Determine whether the caller is male or female. Notice whether the person speaks with an accent. Listen whether background noise can be heard.

If the threat is emailed, keep the email.

Keep an eye out for suspicious packages and letters.

Tell-tale signs are stains on the package from something leaking inside, misspelled names on the address, too much postage, sounds coming from inside the package, no return address and no postmark.

If you identify a suspicious package:

n Do not touch or attempt to open the suspicious package or letter. Do not cover the package. Bomb squad members want to see what they’re dealing with.

n Don’t try to open the item for a peek.

n If the item is suspected to be a bomb, do not use a cell phone or two-way radio near it. Call police on a land line.

n If the item is believed to contain poison or a contaminant, keep it away from windows, doors, fans or vents.

n If evacuation of the building is in order, make sure everyone uses an exit as far away from the package as possible.

Lake Geneva Police Lt. Ed Gritzner said police will work with businesses to set up emergency plans to deal with active shooter situations and suspicious packages and mail.

The term “fusion center” may make some think of the movie “Back to the Future,” or some other science fiction reference.

But after 911, the newly-created Department of Homeland Security determined that law enforcement agencies from local to federal were not communicating in any meaningful way.

The centers are communications exchanges, said Mitch Ross, Milwaukee police officer and a member of Milwaukee’s federal Intelligence Fusion Center.

A total of 78 fusion centers were created around the U.S. to allow law enforcement agencies to communicate on a national scale.

Each state has at least one center, Ross said.

One of the keys to preventing crime are suspicious activities reports, or SARs, he said About 80 percent of the crimes prevented are stopped by people who contact their local police to report something that seems odd, out of place, or downright suspicious.

Ross said authorities are urging people who see something suspicious to say something, even if it isn’t a 911 situation.

It may take a while, but authorities can use that information to keep crimes from happening or solve old crimes, he said.

Ross said Wisconsin is home to two “fusion centers.” one in Madison and one in Milwaukee.

Municipal, state and federal emergency services agencies can now share information about dangerous situation, suspicious individuals and locally unsolved crimes, Ross said.

Those who see suspicious activity, but not necessarily illegal, should call, toll free, (877) 949-2824.

For more information, or to file an online report, go to