Important training at 2023 Cook County Emergency Services Conference
Todd Ford, Cook County

Important training at 2023 Cook County Emergency Services Conference

The two-day Cook County Emergency Conference was held on April 28-29, continuing a long history of training and networking for local and regional responders. After a three-year hiatus, the conference was back with a wide-ranging agenda of presentations and hands-on opportunities.

The event was kicked off with a welcome and “thank you” to emergency responders from Cook County Commissioner Ann Sullivan, Grand Marais Mayor Tracy Benson, and Cook County Emergency Management Director Mike Keyport. They were followed by an update from the Minnesota State Fire Marshal’s Office by Robert Reif. He shared information on what the Fire Marshal’s office can do for local emergency services.

There were interesting presentations from local emergency officials, such as North Shore Health with “Stop the Bleed” training. Arrowhead Electric CEO John Twiest gave a recap on the major outage in December 22 and talked about what community members should do in extended outages. There was training on the use of Naloxone (Narcan) and ARMER radio communications updates. Andrea Tofte shared information from Cook County Public Health on lessons learned in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Along with local responders, FirstNet, the AT&T emergency response network, conducted a communications exercise at the Mid-Gunflint Trail Fire Hall. The Minnesota National Guard 148th Fighter Wing was also on hand with its portable emergency communications vehicle.

Down on the Grand Marais harbor, Tom Crossmon demonstrated how Scan Sonar and Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) equipment can be used. Crossmon founded his underwater and robotics company in 2008 with the goal of helping law enforcement in the recovery of drowning victims. His company was involved in the search for the remains of murder victim Richard Balsimo Jr in 2021.

One very popular session, sponsored by Arrowhead Electric, was held in the Community Center ice arena. Inside the arena were several electric vehicles (EVs) loaned to the emergency conference by local EV owners. Jack Volz, of Safety & Security Consultation Specialists, who instructs first responders on approaching and disabling power on EVs. One responder likened the training to what was offered when cars were first equipped with air bags, which is also a potential danger to first responders.

The conference includes encouragement to all emergency workers to take care of themselves with sessions like Psychological First Aid presented by officials from the Minnesota Department of Health. This also includes refreshments such as a BBQ lunch prepared by the members of the Grand Portage American Legion and an evening meal.

WTIP stopped by the conference to learn more about what was taking place over the weekend. Emergency Management Director Mike Keyport expressed his appreciation to all of the emergency responders who attended and to all emergency workers every day.

He said, “We always, always appreciate everything they do, which is just huge.”

Keyport also asked the community to reach out to him. Do responders want the conference to continue? What sort of training should be offered? Anyone who would like to provide feedback may contact Keyport at or by calling 218-387-3059.
Here’s a report from WTIP’s Rhonda Silence.