The Cape Coral Fire Department hosted a multi-jurisdictional, multi-agency training exercise Friday inside the former Kmart at the Coralwood Mall.
Cape firefighters were joined by members of the police department, Fort Myers Police Department, Lee County Sheriff's Office, the Florida National Guard's 48th Civil Support Team and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
CCFD Battalion Chief John Spicuzza explained that the mock exercise had been scheduled for about a year. When the department began planning it six months ago, they realized the different units were not working together.
HAZMAT was focused on its training; SWAT was focused on its training.
The goal of Friday's exercise was interagency coordination and operation, where participants learn each other's roles and how best to work together. In the meantime, agency leaders did the same from the command center.
"We have all the main players working together," Spicuzza said.
Friday's drill consisted of a mock scenario in which authorities execute a search warrant at a location after receiving a tip about a possible meth lab.
LCSO Sgt. David Velez explained that communication among agencies is a requirement when there are several groups trying to get the job done.
"Pre-incident planning is definitely the key," LCSO Sgt. David Velez said.
He added that the exercise is an opportunity for the agencies to come together and sharpen their skills - for them to "train, train, train."
"The key is to work together and make it though it safely," Velez said.
Asked for an example of an incident in which local agencies were called upon to use their interagency skills, he cited a report of a suspicious package.
Velez said the report came in within the last year in the San Carlos area.
In that instance, agencies on up to the federal level were called to scene.
"Incidents like this can happen at any time," he said.
Lt. Tony Sizemore, with the CCPD, reported that the community wants its first responders trained and ready in case something were to happen.
"I think the events on Monday in Boston really underscore the importance of this," he said of the mock drill. "Southwest Florida is not immune."
Local agencies try to get together to train at least every year.
"It's good to drill and train," Sizemore said.