EWU, Cheney police train for the day they hope never arrives
‘Active shooter’ training takes over Cheney Middle School
Sgt. Bryan Dornbos of the EWU police department instructs the American Medical Response team at last Wednesday’s Active-Shooter training at Cheney Middle School.
The police activity that might have been observed at Cheney Middle School last Wednesday was much to do about a lot of things.
Hopefully for local law enforcement, it’s training they never have to use.
It was the sixth year in a row that Eastern Washington University conducted active shooter training for local emergency agencies. The focus of the exercise was to assist both police and fire on how best to deal with both a shooter, and then any potential victims.
The Clery Act, a federal mandate, requires colleges and universities across the country to train in the event of active-shooter and mass casualty situations. Notable past shootings include of course, Columbine, Virginia Tech and Newtown, Conn.
“Number one for us is networking and getting together so we reacquaint ourselves with everybody, but then knock the rust off,” EWU Deputy Police Chief Gary Gasseling said. “These are those perishable skills where you don’t get to use them very often.”
Things go sideways when you don’t go through that process, Gasseling said.
The nearly day-long activities dealt with shooters at the school, and even on a bus. The culmination was an evening exercise in which two shooters were in separate parts of CMS. They had already left victims in their wake that first-responders had to deal with, all while hearing shots being fired.
“The thing that is so hard for cops to overcome (is) run to the shots,” Gasseling said. Add to that you’re in a school, you’ve got kids screaming all over the place. “The guys are going in, they’ve got people laying on the floors, there’s blood.”
Then the quandary sets in.
“You’ve got to stop and pause and say ‘do I help this person,’ but then you hear shots,’” Gasseling said. “Your job is to go to the shots, but do so in as calculating a manner as possible considering the situation.”
Running to the shots is counter to what training says, Gasseling said. “You don’t go any faster than you can shoot accurately.”
The middle school was selected for both its layout as well as some of the technology that was offered onsite. Past training has been conducted in different buildings, and outside at the EWU campus.
“We thought this was appropriate because it’s a new school and it’s a good way to get people into that school and become acquainted with its layout,” Gasseling explained. And also how once inside a building things are not always as they appear.
Gunshots really don’t sound like gunshots inside a building because they sound different, Gasseling explained. “When you’re a ways away even a shotgun sounds like a muffled door slamming,” Gasseling said. “Yeah, but three in a row?” People can’t slam doors three times in a row he said.
The school’s new technological features were also a training plus.
“The other advantage we had was they have such a great video surveillance system,” Gasseling explained. “We were using that out in the command post; they could actually live feed and see and help them out.”
Everyone picked things up fast in the training, Gasseling said. “Hopefuly the end result for both potential victims inside and the officers, activities like this will save more lives.”
Paul Delaney can be reached at email@example.com.