On a sweltering summer day inside EWU’s Streeter Hall, EWU Police and Cheney Fire Department find themselves in a most uncomfortable situation.
Officers are dressed in full emergency response gear, including bullet proof vests. The narrow hallways are dimly lit. The sightlines are horrible. Yet they must find a way to rescue and treat multiple victims of a mass shooting.
In this case the victims are actors played by students and staff, the scenario is based on real-life active shooter situations, but the officers participating are very real and you can sense their hearts racing as they methodically make their way down the tight corridors of the third and fourth floors.
“We have to be prepared,” says Ralph Wilfong, an emergency management consultant for the EWU Police Department. Wilfong knows this type of annual training on the Eastern campus is imperative. “It’s such a time critical thing, we want to make sure that everybody is up to speed on the safety and tactical issues to make this a success.”
For this year’s exercise, police are responding to an active shooter inside Streeter, with multiple victims that need their help. Different teams of officers are tasked with neutralizing the shooter while treating victims and getting them safely out of the building.
“Every police officer understands that we’re the ones who go toward the action, not run away from it. If you’re trained for that, the chance for success is better,” says Wilfong.
Police point out the training is a bit different each year, especially since the bad guys keep changing their tactics as well.
“We have to keep current on the kinds of threats and the kinds of methods that the bad guys are using, and they do tend to vary. They get more sophisticated. And I did mention that we’re seeing more combination things – like using a vehicle, and then guys jumping out and start shooting people. That’s happened just very recently in the U.K.”
And it’s something Wilfong hopes never happens here. But he has to prepare.