MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- An announcement was heard through the halls of Condor Elementary School, but was not the usual morning announcement. It was the voice of a staff member urging teachers to secure their classrooms due to an active shooter being present in the building.
The Combat Center’s Force Protection Office, along with the San Bernandino County Sheriff’s Department, Combat Center Fire Department, Provost Marshal’s Office, Morongo Basin Ambulance, and several other local first responders, conducted an active shooter exercise at Condor Elementary School, July 22, 2014.
The exercise brought several departments together to enhance collaborative emergency response and recovery efforts by applying them in a school scenario.
“It makes me feel a little more safe knowing first responders train to react to scenarios of this scale,” Pfc. Bandi Ellenwood, volunteer role player, Marine Corps Communication-Electronics School.
Approximately 350 Marines participated as volunteers for the exercise. Each Marine filled roles, such as teachers, parents, bystanders, students and casualties. As the announcement echoed through the building, role players called 911 to alert authorities and first responders participating in the event.
“The exercise trains how several different departments interact together with a mass casualty scenario, like an active shooter, while also ensuring all parties are familiar with the national incident management system,” said Randy Leazer, fire chief, Combat Center Fire Department.
The role players filled several rooms throughout the building, practicing different reactions to the active shooter announcement. These responses included barricading the room, turning off all lights, or evading and escaping. Participants were not allowed to fight back or use force to escape during the exercise. Along with different acts to play, each role player also had injuries that first responders had to document and treat.
“Medically, it tests the fire department’s mass casualty collection injury and treatment procedures,” Leazer said. “Exercises like this also teach rapid triage of various degrees of injuries for transportation sorting based on severity of said injuries.”
After one hour, all three active shooters were detained and first responders went through the procedure of evacuating rooms while still maintaining control and safety of all the "students."
“One of the main things I learned from this experience is how important it is to stay calm and let the first responders work,” Ellenwood said. “I think practicing with all these factors helps them go through the different possibilities that could happen if an active shooter was present in this setting.”