Mass shooting exercise gives authorities valuable training

By Joleen Ferris

(WKTV) -  As police and paramedics in Murrysville, Pa., dealt with multiple victims from a mass stabbing in a school there Wednesday morning, police from all over New York State were in Oriskany, training for a similar scenario in their own hometowns. 

It was a live shooter scenario like no other at the State Preparedness Training Center in Oriskany.

"They know it is a Mumbai-type attack, they just don't know exactly what they are in for. They have no idea," said Robert Stallman of the center. 

All the police officers and EMS workers knew was what they heard on the scanner on their way to the "scene":  that there were multiple victims shot and multiple shooters on the scene of a terrorist attack in the fictitious city of Rosterfield's bus station (an airplane hangar at the Emergency Preparedness Center).

The realistic scenario included actors as victims, with "bleeding wounds" applied by makeup artists. The real, but modified, 9 mm Glock handguns fired soap pellets. Once police "arrested" the terrorists, they had to tend to the wounded, all of whom were screaming for help, adding to the atmosphere of controlled chaos.

"Reality-based scenario-based training where what you do depends on what the people are doing right in front of you at that time, you can not get any better training than that," said Stallman.

Participants, including many from the New York City Police Department, agree.

"What I leave here with is you don't forget and I think that's a huge training aspect, because you're in your car driving back, you're on a plane, whatever and you're thinking about scenarios you just went through. That makes you follow up and not make mistakes along the way. 'I'll never do this again', etc etc," said Officer Craig Martinez.

From Syracuse, agreement: "We are training right now and if we're going to make mistakes, we make the mistakes here. In the real world, we won't make those mistakes," said participant Henry Hoffman, of Syracuse Rural Metro.

There was no time to think during Wednesday's live shooter training drill, only to act. The thinking will come later.

"So then when it's all finished, we do what's called a hot wash or debrief. We bring everybody back together and talk about what they just went through. What are you feeling right now? What was going through your mind? What could we have done maybe differently?" said Stallman.

The participants in Wednesday's drill are preparing to take their training to the next level, in a simulated city right on the grounds of the Preparedness Training Center in Oriskany.  There, a city complete with a motel, jail and "Main Street, USA" will be simulated.


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