As the number of active shooter incidents continues to climb around the nation, County Executive George Latimer brought school administrators, municipal leaders and police officials together for an intensive training exercise.
More than 100 participants attended the training at the Westchester County Center on Monday, Sept. 17 from a variety of school districts and communities from northern Westchester, with the exercise continuing on Tuesday for southern Westchester school districts and communities.
Latimer said: “This exercise tests the systems in place for response and cooperation among all responding agencies and is just one example of how the county uses its regional role to help local governments. We pray this simulation never comes to real life, but if it does, we want to be ready to respond.”
The tabletop exercise, organized by the Department of Emergency Services and the Department of Public Safety, provided participants with executive-level management training and practical guidance on how schools and communities can work together to respond to and recover from an active shooter event.
Training focused on the critical decisions that would need to be made in the first minutes and hours following a large-scale event. In addition, the training also covered the issues and steps that would be necessary in the subsequent weeks and months to help a community recover.
The exercise scenario facing participants involved a vehicle striking several students and teachers outside a school and then crashing into the building. The driver emerged and began firing at students and staff before entering the school itself.
Among the issues discussed:
- Coordinating the large-scale response by law enforcement to any active shooter event;
- Creating a Rescue Task Force of police, fire and EMS personnel to get life-saving aid to the injured as quickly as practical;
- Communicating quickly and effectively with parents and the public;
- Establishing an area away from the incident where parents could be reunited with their children;
- Opening a Family Assistance Center to help those who were impacted emotionally or financially by the event;
- Managing donations and other offers of help that typically follow such events.
The exercise included a presentation on preventing school and workplace violence by FBI Special Agent Barbara Daly. Daly advised all school districts to have a Threat Assessment Team in place to help identify students or staff members who might be at risk of committing violence.
While it is difficult to prevent active shooter incidents, Daly said there are behavioral issues and other red flags that can help local officials identify persons who might be planning a school attack. Daly went on to say that Threat Assessment Teams should include educators, law enforcement and, mental health professionals.
Public Safety Commissioner Thomas A. Gleason outlined that County Police will continue to provide a broad range of support to school districts and municipalities, including:
- Training regularly with other police agencies and tactical teams in active shooter scenarios;
- Regularly conducting mutual aid response drills across Westchester;
- Constantly updating the active shooter training at the Westchester County Police Academy in response to lessons learned during real-world incidents, and
- Assisting school districts in creating Threat Assessment Teams.
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