‘Intense’ training prepares responders for school shooting

By Dylan Lysen
Manhattan Mercury – July 14, 2017

Firefighters Evan Swanson & Jacob Reifschneider carry Eason Marstall. Photos by Taylor Irby. Click on each photo to view full-size.

Members of the fire department search classrooms & hallways for ‘victims’.

Evan Swanson dresses a “wound” on Seanna Fisher.

Manhattan emergency personnel this week trained on responding to an “intense” event they hope never happens: a school shooting.

The Riley County Police Department, Manhattan Fire Department and Riley County EMS responded to an active shooter training exercise at Marlatt Elementary Tuesday through Thursday.

The ordeal, which featured several actors from eighth-grade students to adult teachers, performing as if they had been injured or worse, along with real guns firing blank rounds and spent shell casings scattered across the floor, created an environment that could one day be real. The police trained on clearing and securing the building, while the firefighters and EMS responders assisted the wounded and got them to safety.

Alexander Robinson, RCPD public information officer, said the training allows officers to have experience if the real thing happens.

In some real-life scenarios across the country, police have been unable to get EMS into the building for about an hour and a half, and Robison said the RCPD goal is to do it within seven minutes after arriving. In a real situation, police would be putting themselves in harm’s way to make sure they can get medical responders to the victims.

“What we don’t want is six hours later EMS is still outside because SWAT hasn’t given the clear,” he said. “We don’t want a teacher or a kid to die because we weren’t fast enough. We want to push the tempo.”

Michele Jones, USD 383 communications and school safety director, said the training is also important for the school district because it gives staff members, teachers and administrators a feel for what it would be like. She said 40 to 50 staff and faculty members attended the training events.

“I want them to see how it feels,” she said. “It really gives people a different perspective. When we do it during school safety week, it’s very controlled, simple and easy. This is very different.

“Even though you know it’s a drill, when you see people lying on the floor screaming for help, it becomes real.”

Krista Thaemert, a reading specialist at Bluemont Elementary, who was one of the actors playing a victim.

“It’s been eye opening,” she said. “It’s been intense, but it’s a good learning experience from a teacher’s perspective.”

She said the training got her blood pumping and showed her what she might do if the situation ever arises.

“As a teacher, your first instinct would be to protect your kids,” she said.

Karla Hagemeister, a candidate for the USD 383 board of education, watched the training, which included her husband, Scott, an RCPD officer helping lead the training, and her son Jacob, one of the actors.

“I’m surprised by the amount of adrenaline and the amount of emotion I have with it,” she said, noting her son was one of the actors who died during the simulation. “I never heard his voice, and part of me was thinking, ‘Geez you’re a mess now, what kind of mess would you have been if you recognized his voice?’”

She said her experience watching the police walk past students who are injured while they tried to clear the building made her think of the emotional effect it has on them.

“For some of these guys, they have a professional responsibility to do X-Y-Z, but that doesn’t turn off the emotion, the human response and reaction,” she said.

Jones said next year the joint training will take place at Manhattan High School West Campus, which will provide new challenges for those training, including larger open spaces and stairs. She said she hopes more high school students participate to make the environment more realistic.

“I told them I’ll provide a building every summer,” she said. “I want them to be in every building so they are familiar with all of our schools.”


Posted by Gwen Dorr Romine, KSFFA Webmaster
KSFFA’s Fire News Blog Home Page

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