Warning: The video above shows an active shooter simulation which may be concerning to some viewers
HUTCHINSON, Kan. (KSNW) – Hoping for the best but preparing for the worst. With the new school year just weeks away, law enforcement officers and other agencies in Reno County teamed up for a four-day active shooter training at Hutchinson High School.
“We want to be as prepared as possible. Our children are our most precious resource, and so obviously, we’re at a school today, and that’s where a lot of these active violence threats are occurring,” said Jeffrey Hooper, Chief of the Hutchinson Police Department.
Threats of violence are not new to Hooper.
“The threat that we had earlier this year was a legitimate threat with plans in place to execute an act of violence on a school and businesses here s in our community, and we were really fortunate that a community member tipped us off to that,” said Hooper.
That situation was taken seriously and helped prevent a violent act.
Hooper says they do this training as realistically as possible, saying that given the many mass shootings reported across the country, they have to prepare as if one could happen here at any time to ensure they have a united response from all local agencies.
“It is absolutely necessary. You know, this is what we do, and this is our purpose, and the community has an expectation for us to respond, and so we want to make sure that if something like this were to happen that we are absolutely prepared and that we’re not here to let anybody down,” said Tim Williams, Lieutenant of Patrol and ERT Team Commander for the Hutchinson Police Department.
More than a dozen agencies, including the Hutchinson Police Department, Reno County EMS, Hutchinson Fire Department, and Pretty Prairie EMS, have taken part in this training. Each department focuses on their individual agency response first, then come together for group situations at the end of the day.
“The triage, treatment, and transport sections of ‘How do we categorize theese patients? How do we determine who needs to be moved off of a scene and what order they need to be moved off of a scene?'” said Monika Heller, the EMS Special Project Chief for Reno County EMS.
To make the training as realistic as possible, they play audio of kids screaming, an officer dresses up as a shooter, police practice with paint bullets, and actors play the victims.
“We play a key role in it as far as moving patients. We’re basically the cog. The police departments will secure them. We move them to EMS to where they can be moved on to hospitals,” said Jason Webb, Fire Captain of the Hutchinson Fire Department.
The simulation is meant to be a stressful and chaotic environment in hopes of preparing the first responders for something they hope to never have to respond to.
“We’re combatting that human element, and so being able to predict violence and to predict how people are gonna respond is going to be the greatest challenge to this profession,” said Tim Williams, Lieutenant of Patrol and ERT Team Commander for the Hutchinson Police Department.
Thursday was the final day of training. These kinds of simulations have been conducted for more than 10 years, but more local agencies were involved this time than ever before.