EATON — On Friday, June 12, William Bruce Elementary became the site of a massive crime scene. At least, that is what it was supposed to feel like for members of the Eaton Police Division who participated in a simulated active shooter exercise held at the school.
The exercise, called a “school mock crisis” or “active killer training,” is becoming an annual event for the Eaton Police Division, who were assisted by the Montgomery County SWAT team and Hostage Negotiation Team to help prepare for a major crises.
The scenario was complex: two suspects enter the building with bombs and guns. One suspect goes to one wing of the school with a rifle and “trip mines”, while another locks herself in a room with hostages and bombs. One of the bombs “explodes” triggering the fire alarm and Eaton Police enter the building only a few minutes later.
Smoke from a smoke machine quickly fills the halls as police actively look for suspects and victims. After the first suspect is removed from the building police interview her gaining valuable information on her accomplice who has hostages in another wing.
Members from the SWAT team enter the building while hostage negotiators talk to the suspect eventually releasing them. All together the exercise takes about three hours as valuable training is gained for all departments involved.
Every detail of the exercise is planned, from the injuries of the victims, to the way the suspects act and dress, each detail is considered to provide the most realistic training as possible. Even a detailed background is created for the suspects who learn them so they can better simulate a suspect for hostage negations.
While the role players and observers are aware of the some of the background and details, those participating in the training are left in the dark and must react as if the situation was active.
Eaton Chief of Police Chad DePew said creating an exercise that is as real as possible is extremely valuable to his officers’ training.
“We try to put ourselves in the most realistic situation as possible,” DePew said. “Our officers, fire fighters, paramedics, and school administrators are now reacting based on their training and not just policies. Now they are seeing smoke in the hallways, hearing fire alarms, their bodies under stressed, adrenaline is pumping and all those things change the way you think, change the way you react.”
DePew says bringing in people from outside agencies to help evaluate his officers is another key aspect of the training. He noted, his department learns something new every year they participate in the exercise, from the people from outside his department who give valuable feedback during the activity.
According to DePew, the exercise helps prepare both local law enforcement and school officials in case there is ever an attack here in Preble County. Representatives from all three Eaton School buildings including Superintendent Barb Curry witnessed the exercise and were able to ask questions to police about the proper way to handle the situation.
DePew said it is important to include officials from the school in the exercise to further simulate reality, “It’s huge to have schools here because they are the ones in charges. In a real incident the school officials would be right there with us providing us with keys to access rooms, access cameras and school maps so it’s important because we would be working with them every step of the way.”
DePew continued by saying that preparing for the worst case scenario is something his department must consider, “Obviously we hope and pray nothing like this ever happens here, or anywhere else, however we don’t want have our heads in the sands and pretend like we are in a safe bubble either.”