The Columbus Day holiday turned first responders and teachers into students during an active shooter drill in Springfield, and they hope their lessons will be useful to other districts around the state.
While students and faculty had the day off, Springfield first responders trained at Springfield High School using a new rescue task force philosophy.
Springfield Police Chief Kenny Winslow said the old way of doing things isn’t practical.
“In the past a lot of times we go through, we clear the whole building in the meantime people are sitting there injured who may have become fatally wounded, or may be fatally wounded or injured, and then passed on,” Winslow said.
Winslow said instead, police are training simultaneously respond to the shooter while providing cover to fire crews taking care of the injured.
Springfield Fire Chief Allen Reyne said it’s a transition fire departments across the state should be making in coordination with law enforcement.
“Having rescuers going in quickly treating, quickly triaging and then pulling some of those kids to safety it’s a more reasonable risk,” Reyne said.
Reyne said regardless of a fire department’s size, they are likely to be among the first responders and should be prepared.
“We’ve got 20 people out here right now and we’re running out of people just to treat [the injured],” Reyne said. “No matter how big or how small your fire department is you are going to be responding to this.”
Winslow said the drill featured various props. Police were seen with shotguns, rifles, communication gear, shields, battering rams and sledge hammers. They even had loud blanks.
“You try to make it as realistic as possible,” Winslow said. “We used some blanks in the building to make that real life gunshot sound so teachers know what it sounds like, they know what they’re hearing, and then show the chaos of what occurs and how we anticipate it’s going to be a mass chaos scene when we first get here.”
Graham Elementary School Principal Steve Miller was a volunteer, alongside other faculty and students who opted to participate in the drill. Some had fake blood and gunshot wounds. Miller said it was an eye-opening experience.
“It was hard to hear those things and hear people that were around me screaming and yelling,” Miller said. “I knew it was pretend but it brought a little realism.”
Miller said he’ll take what he’s learned to his staff.
Winslow said there’s plenty to learn all around.
“What are some of our strengths, what are some of our weaknesses, what do we need to improve on, maybe that’s communication, maybe that’s an actual response, maybe that’s something more, maybe that’s something the school district needs to do, and just continue to build upon,” Winslow said.
Winslow said they anticipate to have an after action report they can use to share with the first responder community to add to the best practices for responding to such events.