Dan Riordan (foreground), of the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office SWAT team, takes local emergency responders (background) through the basics of an upcoming active shooter drill planned for May 31 at Toledo First Baptist Church.
It hasn’t always been the case that law enforcement and emergency medical responders work in conjunction during an active shooting incident.
Beforehand, it had been the expectation of officers to close off a dangerous area and allow SWAT or other specialized teams to neutralize the threat at hand, while medical aid stood at the ready, waiting to be given an all clear to enter and respond to victims.
But, in the wake of massacres such as the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School, or more recently at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, schools of thought have been forced to change, and a drill to help train local responders in these changing methods has been scheduled for May 31 in Toledo.
“We started learning stuff from every one of these mass casualty events,” said Lewis County Sheriff’s Deputy Matt Schlecht, who is organizing the drill. “We needed to develop a process to go in with fire[fighters] and bring patients out.”
According Schlecht, such mass casualty events (defined as four or more people being killed in less than 20 minutes) have taught law enforcement, as well as medical responders, that the priority in such a situation should not be to establish a perimeter and wait for SWAT, but to actively engage the shooter and clear a path to more-safely transport victims to medical aid.
Schlecht said, as an officer in this changing system, it is his priority to enter a building and “hunt the bad guy,” taking what means and risks are necessary to locate and neutralize the shooter immediately. At the same time, officers are tasked with clearing a specific zone for medical responders to begin transporting patients out of the area as soon as possible.
“There’s that timeline where you need to start moving patients out before they die,” said Schlecht. “It’s not a time to triage patients. It’s a time to move them onto a bed and move them out of the building.”
Schlecht, who is also a firefighter with Lewis County Fire District 2, in Toledo, has begun coordinating with local fire districts and police departments to prepare for the drill, which is planned to take place at Toledo First Baptist Church. He said a number of volunteers are expected to be on hand to play victims, and event a few perpetrators, while Airsoft pistols are to be employed to add to the realism of the experience.
Also expected to be involved in instruction will be Dan Riordan, of the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office SWAT team, as well as Corey Butcher, of the Centralia Police Department, who have been on hand to help introduce participants to what will be expected of them during the drill.
Schlecht has said the public should not be alarmed to see a number of emergency vehicles at the church during the drill, or even officers chasing mock-suspects. While the public is still encouraged to call 911 in case of any perceived emergencies, they should understand the events are the church on May 31 are simply a drill.
For more information, contact the Sheriff’s Office at (360) 740-1266.