POLICE Magazine Supplements

Special Report 2018

Magazine for police and law enforcement

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16 SPECIAL REPORT: KEEPING SCHOOLS SAFE Every American law en- forcement agency needs its officers to know what to do in case of a critical incident at a school, particularly one involving an active shooter. One way to train for school shooting response is to stage a simulation of such an event to give officers a dress rehearsal, so to speak, for the real thing. Staging an active shooter or other critical incident exercise at a school is not easy. It involves a lot of re- sources and the need for buy-in not only from your agency's executives but from other law enforcement and public safety entities in your area, as well as use of a school. Oh, and some funding. Before a sheriff or chief is going to sign off on committing resources to a practical critical incident exercise, you will have to convince him or her of need. And he or she will likely be more receptive to the idea if you have done some work and determined what bugs need to be worked out in your response plan. Around the Table at's why a pre-event tabletop can be a good idea. A tabletop is essen- tially a tactical or strategic problem presented by one or more persons and worked out by a group of indi- viduals in the same room. Tabletop exercises covering criti- cal incidents at schools have a lot of value. ey bring together the public safety and school leaders who will have to work together in a real incident and help them get on the same page or at least understand each other's posi- tions before the real thing. Tabletops and other meetings of key public safety personnel in your community are also excellent ways to determine not just each organization's role during the real thing but also any bureaucratic or legal issues that need to be agreed upon to fa- cilitate better response such as the need for memorandums of agreement. The Planning Stage A tabletop exercise is a good first step toward planning a full- scale drill, but it's a baby step. e amount of personnel and resources needed to conduct a practical critical incident train- ing drill is substantial, and it will require cooperation from the executives of each agency involved. Because a full-scale exercise is so complicated, it takes time to plan one and set it up. And the more complicated the exercise, the more time it takes. e first step in planning is to de- cide what type of training you want to conduct in your exercise and then create a scenario that encompasses that training. A good scenario for a full-scale exercise with multiple agencies and public safety disci- plines involved will likely involve more than one stream of training. Developing a full-scale practical critical incident exercise is sort of like producing a movie. You need a detailed script of the scenario, you need a location, you need equip- ment, and you need cast and crew. You also have a budget for what you want to produce. All of these things have to be coordinated, which means you have a lot to manage. Safety First One of the most critical pieces of an exercise is the safety plan. It's not about what is likely to happen; it's about what could happen. And if you're running a force-on- force scenario, then real firearms modified to shoot only marking rounds or airsoft pellet-firing repli- cas will likely be part of the scenario. at means you will need experi- enced safety officers to check and double-check each participating officer for live weapons before he or she enters the exercise site. Be par- ticularly vigilant if any of the officers leave the site after being checked and then return for additional training. You also have to protect the surrounding area and prevent people from tying up emergency resources calling in false alarms about your exercise. Making It Real Many critical incident training exercises now include elements of "realism" such as role-players who have been made up with horrific moulage wounds or using weapons that fire mark- ing rounds. at's cool stuff. But the elements of realism that should most concern you are the ones that will affect officer performance during a real incident. A debilitating problem that officers often must deal with during critical incidents is noise. During a real active shooter incident, fire alarms may be blaring, people will be screaming, and gunshots will echo down the halls, making it extremely dif- ficult for officers to determine the location of the shooter. One ➔ Staging a School Shooting Response Drill LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS AND SCHOOL OFFICIALS CAN LEARN MUCH FROM CONDUCTING A CRITICAL INCIDENT EXERCISE. BUT PRODUCING ONE IS NOT EASY. PHOTOS: TEAM ONE NETWORK

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