Fla. Emergency Responders Train in Active Shooter Simulation
June 15—LYNN HAVEN—The call comes seemingly out of nowhere.
A crackling voice cuts through the traffic of emergency frequencies, announcing "all units, we have an active gunman at a local school."
It's a scenario emergency responders dread but do not take for granted. For the past few weeks, the calls have come over Bay County emergency radios regularly as the Bay County Sheriff's Office undergoes annual active-shooter training.
As part of the month-long training, officials invited local news outlets Wednesday to a county school—which they requested not be identified—to experience what officers go through during an active-shooter exercise. The demonstration unfortunately coincided with two widely publicized mass shootings, one in Alexandria, Virginia, and another in California. Sheriff Tommy Ford said those shootings and those of the past demonstrate the need for officers to be ready for the worst.
"Some people hear about those tragedies and think it can't happen here," he said. "It has happened here. We hope it never happens again, but that is why we have to train and prepare for that day."
Spent shell casings littered the linoleum floor as the smell of gunpowder lingered in the air and a group of officers advanced down the hallway in search of their gunman. As the group scanned classroom after classroom, he suddenly appeared from behind a corner and drew a pistol on the officers before going down in a hail of gunfire.
During that demonstration, the acting gunman's firearm was loaded with blank rounds. In other exercises, though, the "bad guy" was equipped with "simunition," a non-lethal training ammunition, to up the stakes.
BCSO Lt. David Baldwin, one of the instructors, said the simunition travels at about 600 feet per second. It's a close representation of the real thing, in that it not only is painful but also elicits a similar rush of adrenaline from officers.
"The officers get the full experience and advantage of fighting through their errors," he said. "When they make a mistake, they know they've made a mistake."
In some scenarios, officers also were faced with someone portraying a civilian or officer in order to prepare them from discerning threats in high-stress situations.
Each year, the training takes place at a different school in Bay County to not only keep the venue fresh for officers but also to get them familiar with places an active shooter scenario could take place. All sworn officers undergo the training.
Ford said each year, officers also try to refine techniques and include other emergency responders in the training. This year, Lynn Haven Police Department and EMS officers participated.
"That's the reality," Ford said. "Every officer is going to be responding to these situations and will be working together with these common tactics. The more we do, the better we can respond."
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