OSKALOOSA — It was a training for something nobody hopes will ever happen. The middle school was unusually busy for 10 a.m. on a summer Thursday morning.
An Incident Command Post was set up a short distance from the school, the command center for the active shooter response training.
Oskaloosa police, sheriff and fire crews were present, as well as representatives from all around the state, including Wapello, Marion, Poweshiek and Henry counties, with a total of around 50 individuals. According to Robinson, this has so far been one of the largest classes that they’ve done here in Iowa.
“I’m just glad we got to do it here in Oskaloosa,” said Emergency Management Director Jamey Robinson. “They had a few of these throughout the state, and they were kind of fought over, but it’s good for our guys to do it right here in our own school system. And the school system has been
fantastic. I can’t say enough good about it.”
There were no civilians involved with this particular training. “This focuses on the responders,” said Robinson. “Basically, this is how we as a group are going to come in and how we as a group are going to respond.”
Debriefing was held just outside the main doors of the middle school, tactical gear on, with instructors from the Government Training Institute. “These guys
“These guys are police officers, they’re ex-military,” said Robinson. “One of our instructors is actually an Orange County firefighter, so it’s a good mix
of instructors as well, not just one discipline trying to tell another discipline how to do it.”
In this scenario, shots will be fired, using wax bullets. The first day of training was mainly powerpoint. The instructors explained that this is an idea to take back to their home departments and grow and utilize.
The second day was basic hands-on training. The responders would go in and simulate everything. Later that afternoon, they started using live people that they had to actually carry out of the building.
“Today’s full-blown. They’re shooting, they’re getting shot at,” said Robinson. “It makes it a lot more of an intense situation, and hopefully everybody’s going to walk away and have a little bit better understanding and start developing these plans so that we have a good understanding.”
The training focuses on the response, using a unified command. “When you think of an active shooter, everybody always thinks of the police department. Well, there’s fire, there’s emergency management, there’s a lot of pieces to this puzzle. Putting people down in that trailer away from the scene starts making them think of different things they need and getting those people to come together and work together,” said Robinson.
“It’s nice because Oskaloosa and Ottumwa guys are working together. In a real event, there’s a good chance that an Ottumwa officer’s going to be up here assisting us.”
“EMS (Emergency Medical Services) and fire, we’re always told wait until the scene is safe for what we’re doing. I mean granted, a house on fire isn’t really safe, but that’s what we do, but you know,” said Robinson.
With an active shooter situation, fire and EMS personnel are often staged somewhere nearby. With this training, the different departments are working together.
“Those officers now become security for those guys, to protect them so that we can get in here and render aid quickly. And that’s a new mentality, not something that rural Iowa’s thought about too much.”
The experience has been “really good, good training,” said Oskaloosa Officer Ben Johnston, who was getting his gear ready for the scenario.
As the incident started, personnel entered the middle school’s front doors, weapons at the ready, alert and prepared for whatever would play out further in.
“One shooter down,” came a voice over the radio a while later. “Another victim in the orchestra room.” A LifeFlight helicopter was requested. “So far two critical patients.”
Fortunately, wax bullets only sting. No lives were lost today. Hopefully this training will never be needed. However, these men and women
will be ready and will put their training to good use should the need arise.
Story provided by Angie Holland