An unusual outreach opportunity presented itself after Freeport LNG purchased some of the homes on Quintana Island following the announcement of the company terminal’s expansion to include natural gas liquefaction facilities. Many of these homes were in poor condition and had little hope of reuse.
During a meeting with the Brazoria County Sheriff's Office, where Freeport LNG had offered to donate funds for new bulletproof vests, the company discovered an additional need. Brazosport's emergency response teams were also looking for homes in which to train high-risk law enforcement operations: hostage or shooter scenarios and dangerous warrant servicing.
Although the sheriff's office maintains a 60-acre training facility just outside its Jones Creek location, it had no models to instruct how to enter unknown buildings or offer realistic processes for breaching doors or windows. Captain Richard Foreman, who has been heavily involved in the emergency response team training, commented that, "When I talked to Sheriff Wagner and he informed me that we had this opportunity (with Freeport LNG-owned homes), I made him repeat it to me. It’s hard to get that opportunity to where a guy can get out and really become good with a window rake or a bang pole or door breaching tools and be able to do it in a real scenario and not a practice scenario."
How Quintana beach homes may save lives
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"That’s our goal: to be able to go into the community and do our work and leave the smallest footprint that we possibly can."
On August 4th, members of the Brazoria County Sheriff's emergency response team staged several shooter and hostage scenarios using a compound of four Quintana beach houses once owned by Dow Chemical. Participating teams are not told in advance the exact details of the emergency. Their training allows them to go in with a Plan A, but as Captain Forman emphasizes, "As the situation unfolds, it may go to 'Plan Z' because the tactics will change depending on the response of the people that we’re dealing with." And, the "bad guys" that teams find themselves up against in these exercises are often other county jail system employees who know first hand how to act as a crafty and dangerous opponent.
Another interesting aspect of the response teams is that they not only include heavily armored and armed SWAT officers, but also feature a crisis negotiation squad made up of mental health deputies. They are on hand to defuse a dangerous situation and minimize any violence.
After a long, hot day of drills throughout the house compound, the teams successfully competed a series of training scenarios and gained valuable knowledge of how best to approach the "real thing." At the end of the day, Captain Foreman reminded observers, "Tactical groups like the Sheriff’s Response Team are formed so that there’s very little violence. That’s our goal: to be able to go into the community and do our work and leave the smallest footprint that we possibly can."