Colo. county first responders hold large-scale active shooter training
First responders in Boulder County trained for three days over multiple scenarios at Arapahoe Ridge High School
By Nicky Andrews
BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. — On Wednesday morning, police and firefighters in bulletproof vests and helmets held fake guns as they filed into the cafeteria of Arapahoe Ridge High School to simulate an active shooter response.
Police practiced clearing out the building, firefighters used fake medical equipment to perform on mannequins posing as victims and paramedics arrived on scene, just as they would plan to in a real mass injury or casualty event.
In an hour-long lecture prior to the simulation, Boulder police officer Nathan Schultz broke down Boulder County first responders’ plan in the event of an active shooter into three main categories; stop the killing, stop the dying and rapid casualty evacuation.
Schultz led the lecture with Boulder Fire-Rescue engineer Ian Hill.
The two updated the county wide response plan after studying response tactics from jurisdictions across the nation as well as the response of police, fire and medics in former mass shootings in an effort to implement an up-to-date and effective plan.
“Boulder County Active Shooter Task Force is a working group of people from police, fire, EMS, schools, disaster management and emergency management staff and we have three main goals,” Schultz said. “Our goals are sustainable training, policy guidance and best practice development.”
Hill said he and Schultz are constantly studying not just how police and firefighters respond, but how tactics of active shooters are changing and growing.
“The nice thing about our training program is it can be fluid,” Hill said. “We can change and we can adapt to these new tactics.”
For this training exercise, they set up several sessions across three days that included multiple stations and departments to help build the relationships between agencies and streamline communication in such a “chaotic and complex” time.
The lecture included specific guidelines for responders, including how to round up and care for victims, what radio channels to use and where to park emergency vehicles. Under the plan, each responder is assigned a role with specific duties that were reviewed during the training.
The training was the first of its size to be held at a Boulder County school. The location was chosen by Hill and Schultz to avoid the artificialities of a training center and to simulate responding to an active shooter in an unfamiliar environment while simultaneously familiarizing responders with a possible location of a shooting.
“It’s important we make it as realistic as possible and we meet our training goals,” Schultz said. “The unfortunate reality of these events is that active shootings and active attacks happen in populated places. Schools are one of those places.”
In addition to firefighters and officers, the training included dispatchers, Boulder Valley School District Safety Officers, open space rangers, paramedics and Boulder County Sheriff’s Office deputies.
BVSD Director of Safety and Security Brendan Sullivan said the school district is partnering with Boulder police to ensure they are familiar with the school’s building in the case of an emergency.
“We want to make sure that if anything ever happens in one of our buildings that the officer responding is not stepping foot into our building for the very first time,” Sullivan said. “We want to make sure they know floor plans, they know access routes, they have classroom keys, their radio comms work, they know what’s going to happen and the functionality of our buildings if an emergency occurs.”
Sullivan said BVSD safety officers, who are unarmed but located in schools, also have action plans in an emergency that involves coordination with police.
BVSD Chief Communications Officer Randy Barber said the BVSD safety team also works alongside student support services and counselors regularly to preemptively track any concerning behavior that could potentially lead to a student becoming a mass shooter or harmer.
Schultz and Hill plan to continue training on active shooter responses to ensure plans are up to date and responders are reminded of protocol.
“If we run the program once we only expose one part of our staff to it,” Shultz said. “We have to expose everybody and we have to expose them at a frequency that allows them to keep thinking about it and keep building on the skills that we teach.”