Public safety agencies in Lawrence are taking steps to prepare for active shooter situations by participating in training exercises.
The Lawrence police and fire departments recently conducted active shooter and victim rescue training at the Lawrence Fire Dept. on East 59th Street, where several members of the media were given an opportunity to observe and learn more details. LFD Chief Dino Batalis said officials have worked to develop a rescue task force that has a major focus for the last three years.
“We’re just trying to get better prepared,” Batalis said. “I think the only thing we can do as public safety (agencies) is to train and prepare. When you are prepared, you’re not sitting there developing a plan.”
Batalis said the fire department working with law enforcement in the training is important since both agencies would be involved during an active shooter situation.
“Communication is a vital part of this whole thing,” he said. “While we’re trying to save lives, we’re trying to stay safe at the same time.”
The training involved four fire firefighters/medics, who were escorted into the building by two armed Lawrence police officers, as part of the mock scenario that saw individuals holding onto the shoulders of the person standing in front of them.
That was done since emergency responders may face possible situations with little to no light available, said Lawrence Police Dept. Chief Gary Woodruff.
“You have to rely on that physical contact to be able to know where they’re at and what they’re doing to help guide each other,” Woodruff said.
The training was designed to lead the firefighters into a “warm zone,” an attempt to assess, treat and extricate injured victims inside who need medical treatment under a potential threat, according to Woodruff. In comparison, a “hot zone” is a situation where there is direct contact with an ongoing threat,” he added.
Woodruff also said the training gives police officers and firefighters an opportunity to practice responding to a potential situation they might be faced with.
“We’d rather put that sweat equity in training prior to an event happening so we have that game plan already in place,” he said.
Woodruff said his agency looks at events occurring across the U.S., most recently at the Greenwood Park Mall in Greenwood where a gunman killed three people before being killed by a legally armed civilian, and around the world by focusing on best practices and what can be done to improve services in emergency situations.
Still, Woodruff stressed that his police officers are trained to go in and “neutralize the threat” when responding to an emergency such as an active shooter.
“As long as that active threat exists, we are going to confront that threat,” Woodruff said.
Woodruff said the training also allows the police and fire department personnel to understand each other’s tactics. Having established plans in place means both agencies have an understanding of what they will do during a live scene, he added.
“The mindset should not be ‘it can’t occur here or won’t occur here.’ The mindset should be, ‘If and when it occurs here, we are prepared,’” Woodruff said.