September 2, 2014 > Be Prepared Ð not just for Boy Scouts
Be Prepared Ð not just for Boy Scouts
By William Marshak
Violence has been part of United States culture from inception, but the advent of modern weapons, population growth and societal pressures have sparked debate over readiness of local and regional protective services to meet threats that have surfaced with alarming regularity.
Legendary football coach Vince Lombardi said, ÒPerfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.Ó That is the goal of a multitude of drills held by law enforcement personnel throughout the nation to anticipate and respond effectively to emergency situations. Recently the Residential Life facility on the California State University East Bay (CSUEB) campus was the scene of an Òactive shooter drill.Ó Designed to enhance coordination, communications, tactics and negotiating skills, law enforcement personnel faced a variety of scenarios that included realistic encounters with panicked bystanders, hostages, casualties and an armed perpetrator.
On two separate days, CSUEB and Hayward Police trained, responded and were evaluated on how well they contained and defused a variety of potentially lethal scenarios within the residence hall Ð how many people are involved, casualties, entry or exit points. During each day of the exercise, four or five variations were presented to officers. Realism is essential to good training so student safety officers were instructed to act as casualties, hostages or scared students running away from the incident. Within the narrow confines of a hallway, responding officers learned to recognize a hostage from a gunman and how to elicit usable information from people in panic and quickly assess their physical state. Breaching a room that may contain an active shooter, hostages and casualties presents a host of challenges. Executive Director of University Communications Jeff Bliss said, ÒIt is very difficult, but thatÕs what it is all about.Ó
Bliss continued, ÒCSUEB police department and other local police agencies meet on a regular basis for all sorts of training exercises, briefings and coordinated efforts; this exercise is not unusual. We have a very close relationship with local law enforcement agencies and have done a number of Ôactive shooterÕ drills Ð and other types of drills - in the past; future drills will be held off campus as well.Ó For example, in October, campus police will take part in the ÒGreat California ShakeOut,Ó a major earthquake scenario.
Preparation for campus shootings may be seen as a response to incidents such as Columbine, Sandy Hook and Isla Vista, but, Bliss says, such drills have been held for the past ten years. The primary purpose is to make the best use of local resources, sharing experience and sharpening tactical responses. Bliss says, ÒIt is an opportunity to make sure we communicate in the right way, not just use of hardware but defining terminology (i.e. student, shooter, dorm, residence hall, etc.). Each campus uses its own best practices for crisis drills based on their unique set of circumstances and environments. However, coordination between departments throughout the state and country is achieved through regional, state and national conferences and training.
Thankfully, these set incidents were only practice drills, but Lombardi would be proud of the effort and professionalism that should give comfort to those who may depend on quick and effective responses by protective service first responders in times of need.