Western Pa. officers train for 'active shooter' situations
Recorded screams, shouts and wounded “hostages” were among the distractions 34 regional law enforcement officers encountered on Wednesday as they role-played an active-shooter situation at the Somerset County Technology Center.
It was training Somerset County Sheriff John A. Mankey never dreamed of as a former state trooper.
“Back then, we (state police) never thought of someone going into schools and killing people execution-style. That's why this training is held, to keep us up to date,” Mankey said.
Wednesday's training was coordinated by the Somerset County Department of Emergency Services. Funding for the Louisiana State University course instructors, materials and training equipment was provided by the Department of Homeland Security.
Joel Landis, training officer with Somerset County Department of Emergency Services, said participants included municipal police officers, state troopers, park rangers, detectives and school district police officers.
He did not have a roster of each participating agency.
“Current events show that we have a trend with active shooters,” Landis said.
Throughout the afternoon Wednesday, teams of hostages, shooters and law enforcement officers rotated in and out of simulated scenarios. They were armed with training handguns, and their “ammunition” was rubber rounds.
The arms of a few “shooters” bore the telltale red sting mark of a round having hit home.
“This is lifesaving. We never know when anyone might encounter active shooters. ... This teaches us how to deactivate scenarios with the least amount of loss of life. It's probably the most positive training I've participated in,” Mankey said.
Events such as the Dec. 14 shooting in Newtown, Conn., when Adam Lanza shot his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School and shot and killed 20 children and six staff members, have changed the way first responders handle active shootings, Mankey said.
“I think what I learned today was primarily the speed factor. In my old days with the state police, we were taught to talk to people and calm them,” he said.
“Now you get in, move, stop the action,” Mankey said.
Shawn Kovac, superintendent of the North Star School District in Boswell, Somerset County, played both a hostage and a shooter in the training exercise.
“It's very intense. As superintendent, I'm responsible for developing our emergency response plan,” he said.
Kovac plans to evaluate everything from furniture placement in classrooms — so as not to impede first responders — to location of students during lockdown situations.
“I have hunted all of my life. I've had firearm training. I probably jumped 3 feet” at the sights and sounds of a classroom shooting, Kovac said.
He said he plans to look into holding an active shooter drill for his own district's teachers and staff.
Kovac said he learned that in a lockdown situation where police are required, students could be confined to classrooms for hours.
He said kits containing water, food rations and emergency medical supplies will be in every district classroom by fall.
“You pray to God nothing like this will ever happen in our classrooms. It's sobering and scary, but necessary,” Kovac said.
Mary Pickels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-5401 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.