Prepping for a School Shooting

It's every school's worst nightmare: an active shooter roaming the halls.

More than 200 police, fire and emergency responders learned how to respond Saturday, in a training nearly all called comprehensive and extremely realistic.

"Obviously it's about as real world as we can make it with real bad guys, guns, victims, the whole deal," said Sgt. Joseph Brodeur of the Michigan State Police's Brighton Post. "We're going to perform the same way we practice so doing it like this -- multiple scenarios, getting the people used to working together in this kind of setting -- making it as real as possible is as good as it gets for training value."

On the final day of a four-day training, responders walked through four scenarios, practicing tracking down gunmen and tending to injured students in the hallways.

The emphasis on Saturday was on medical response, representing a change in philosophy from other school shootings. Before, Emergency Management Program Manager Lt. Mike Kinaschuk said, the focus was on clearing the building before sending in firefighters. Now, there's a larger emphasis on helping the injured.

"We want to get to the victims as quickly as possible. We know that we can save lives if we can get to them soon enough," said Kinaschuk. "We've learned as we've gone along. We find out we have to make changes in law enforcement. We have to make changes in any of the first responders in order to accommodate what's taking place at that particular time."

For firefighters, it was a new type of experience.

"We've always responded but we've never actually been part of the entry team," said Howell Fire Chief Andy Pless. "We're not used to gunfire. We run to fire but not gunfire."

There were challenges, Pless said, especially mastering communication, but said his crew was enjoying things.

The training has been five months in the making, after the district decided the closed Latson Road Elementary School would be demolished.

The building proved to be a perfect setting, said Howell Director of Safe Schools Patrick Sidge, and the results leave the district in a good position for the future.

"I think our overall security is definitely enhanced," said Sidge. "The school districts have a parent's most precious commodity in their hands on a daily basis and that's their kids. If what we're doing we can save lives even one life or one additional life, how do you put a price tag on a life? And you can't."


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