An upset father arrives in the office of the Western Washington Fairgrounds Academy, demanding to speak with the Dean of Students about the suspension of his son from the football team, which is currently ranked in the national polls. The father is irate and extremely agitated that his son's future is being affected by the Academy's Board of Standards to suspend his son from the team. The board chair is the Dean of Students. The Dean is called into the office, but the secretary also calls the local police department out of concern for the father's behavior.
That's the scenario given to participating law enforcement officers who gathered at the Western Washington Fairgrounds from around Pierce County to hone their skills in emergency response to a potentially violent situation. The all-day training on May 9 included exercises in active shooter confrontation, bomb and explosive response, triage and forced entry, coordinated by the Pierce County Department of Emergency Management (PCDEM).
According to Kristin Tinsley, public information officer for PCDEM, the purpose of the exercise is to not only develop skills for responding to these types of calls, but promote and improve communication among the agencies that respond to violent incidents.
"We're training for an incident that could happen anywhere," Tinsley. "These exercises test the emergency plans the county has in place."
At the training, officers practiced confronting two gun-wielding suspects in a barn on the fairgrounds, who were armed with paintball guns. They practiced treating the injuries of shooting victims, played by members of the Central Pierce Fire and Rescue Medical Explorers team.
Participating agencies included Puyallup Police, Bonney Lake Police, Central Pierce Fire and Rescue, the Pierce County Sheriff's Department, the Washington State Patrol, West Pierce Fire and Rescue, Sumner Police and Lakewood Police, among others.
It was the first training exercise at the Puyallup Fairgrounds, which proved to be a useful spot for officers to practice in. Organizers worked on the event for about 8 months before Thursday's demonstration.
Bringing together officers from multiple agencies help practice working within the Incident Command System, specifically Unified Command as it relates to violent incidents. Officers learned how to identify and mitigate common hazards that first responders encounter in a violent situation and they practiced Pierce County's protocol for school lock-down procedures.
The FBI notes that active shooter incidents often occur in small- and medium-sized communities—like Aurora, Colorado and Newtown, Connecticut—where police departments are limited by budget constraints and small workforces.
“Training first responders is a critical step in helping to keep our community safe,” says East Pierce Fire and Rescue Lieutenant Dan Curtis. “In the past, the police and firefighters often trained separately. Joint training efforts, such as these, provide invaluable experience in how to best work together when lives depend upon us.”