Preparing for the Worst: Active Shooter Training Part 1

Published: May. 3, 2018 at 5:22 PM EDT
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In the months since the Parkland, Florida school shooting, more police departments across the nation have requested active shooter training.

First responders from across Central Maine recently took part in a rare inter-agency training session to get prepared for a situation they hope they'll never experience.

On April 17th, first responders from Kennebec and Somerset counties took over the Lawrence High School and Junior High complex in Fairfield while students were enjoying their spring vacation.

"We have a good representation of law enforcement officers, municipal officers, county officers, fire departments, EMS departments, ambulance companies from Somerset and Kennebec county because these resources are the resources that would show up at a real world incident."

Chief David LaFountain says in 2015 the unfortunate increased trend in school shootings convinced him to reach out for funding to organize a single day of training.

"I think the communities should realize that there is nothing that isolates your community from any other community besides just being lucky," said LaFountain, Chief of the Waterville & Winslow Fire Departments.

It's taken years for everything to fall in place. At the time of the grant request, it was almost unheard of for fire departments to ask for active shooter training. But after the last couple of years of increased gun violence, it's becoming more common.

"It's one thing to see on the news and think and manipulate in your head how you would be in that situation. But really you can take away actually being hands on in that experience what you would actually really do," said Ryan Wyman, EMCC student.

Criminal Justice students from Eastern Maine Community College volunteered to portray wounded or deceased victims.

"Even a little role playing you see how hectic it can be when it's a life or death situation," said EMCC student Alan Medina.

Hiding in the corners of the cafeteria or writhing in pain on the ground, each student was instructed to play their part as realistically as possible to give first responders a glimpse of the chaos and carnage typically witnessed in a real world tragedy.

"It's very valuable to go through these simulations for both students and the actual officers because we learn what we are eventually going to have to deal with," said Julia Richards, volunteer from EMCC.

"In a situation like this, the school resource officer more likely than not is going to be the first responder on scene," said Ellen Stewart.

Stewart is the Winslow School Resource Officer. She's inside Winslow public schools every day building relationships with students and staff as well as providing school safety.

She says training opportunities such as this allow her to assess security gaps inside schools as well as develop plans for how to react if the worst was to happen.

"Being able to train like this in a situation where it's completely safe, there's not any chance that anybody's going to be hurt or anything like that, it helps us as first responders be able to get in the mindset where we're able to think through the possibilities of what could happen," said Stewart.

Each scenario requires real time reaction and decision-making skills from all responding agencies.

Some simulations were adapted from actual incidents, such as the Aurora Theater shooting, but every scenario reinforced the importance of communication between first responders.

"If we're in the school doing what we're doing, it's a bad day for the school, it's a bad day for the community. But we're going to go in and we're going to try to minimize the damage, minimize the fatalities. We're going to go in and try to stop the bleeding and get these people to definitive health care," said LaFountain.