Ac­tive-as­sailant work­shop par­tic­i­pants bring ex­pe­ri­ence to ta­ble

Baltimore Sun - - FROM PAGE ONE - Bal­ti­more Sun re­porter Doug Dono­van con­trib­uted to this ar­ti­cle. jean.mar­bella@balt­ twit­­mar­bella

shop. “Now it seems like it’s ev­ery week.”

In­deed, the Cal­i­for­nia shoot­ing came just 11 days after a gun­man stormed the Tree of Life syn­a­gogue in Pitts­burgh and killed 11 Jewish con­gre­gants.

In An­napo­lis, those and ev­ery mass shoot­ing hold par­tic­u­lar and painful res­o­nance.

“It takes you back to the day of,” said Jen Corbin, the Anne Arun­del County cri­sis re­sponse di­rec­tor.

Corbin and her col­league, Lt. Steven Thomas, shared some of their ex­pe­ri­ences re­spond­ing to the June 28 shoot­ing in the Cap­i­tal Gazette news­room, where five co-work­ers were killed: ed­i­tors and writ­ers Ger­ald Fis­chman, Rob Hi­aasen, John McNa­mara and Wendi Win­ters, and ad­ver­tis­ing sales as­sis­tant Re­becca Smith. Sev­eral were in­jured, and even more were and re­main trau­ma­tized — an out­ward-ex­pand­ing cir­cle that en­com­passes the vic­tims’ fam­i­lies, wit­nesses, those work­ing else­where and the po­lice and fire per­son­nel who re­sponded to a crime scene of hor­rific car­nage, Corbin and Thomas said.

“Every­one is af­fected by it,” Thomas, the county’s cri­sis in­ter­ven­tion team co­or­di­na­tor, told those at­tend­ing the work­shop. “In­clud­ing Jen and I.”

The Cap­i­tal Gazette is part of Bal­ti­more Sun Me­dia.

Corbin said re­spond­ing to a cri­sis needs to be viewed be­yond the event it­self: Peo­ple on the scene need im­me­di­ate as­sis­tance, but they’ll need it af­ter­ward as well — after the memo­ri­als have ended, and when trig­ger­ing events such as a crim­i­nal trial be­gin.

The work­shop in­cluded ses­sions on how to co­or­di­nate among the mul­ti­ple agen­cies that re­spond to a cri­sis, man­age the in­flux of me­dia, re­unite fam­i­lies with those who were at the scene of the crime and, sad­dest of all, no­ti­fy­ing those whose rel­a­tives are among the dead. The ses­sions were a rev­e­la­tion in how much goes on be­hind the scenes, from es­tab­lish­ing where loved ones can gather to trans­port­ing those evac­u­ated from the crime scene to mak­ing sure there are enough phone lines for peo­ple to call into for in­for­ma­tion. And all has to be done un­der a high-pres­sure and time-sen­si­tive at­mos­phere.

Cri­sis re­spon­ders like Corbin and Thomas said they have to try to soothe the trau­ma­tized vic­tims and wit­nesses, even as they need to get them quickly to the de­tec­tives in­ves­ti­gat­ing the crime, so their mem­o­ries aren’t tainted by what they hear from oth­ers. Then they need to no­tify the fam­i­lies of those killed in as com­pas­sion­ate a way pos­si­ble, be­fore they hear it from some­one else.

Corbin told the at­ten­dees about how fam­i­lies of those killed in a mass shoot­ing else­where hadn’t yet re­ceived for­mal no­ti­fi­ca­tion when they learned it on their own: As they watched buses bring those evac­u­ated from the scene to the fam­ily re­uni­fi­ca­tion cen­ter, the car­a­van sud­denly ended and the fam­ily mem­bers were still stand­ing there — wait­ing for those who would never come.

Such work­shops are in­creas­ingly com­mon. And, un­for­tu­nately, the cas­cade of mass shoot­ings has pro­vided all too many op­por­tu­ni­ties to learn what works and what doesn’t: Be­tween 2000 and 2017, there were 250 ac­tive-shooter in­ci­dents in the United States, ac­cord­ing to data from Texas State Univer­sity and the FBI. (The FBI de­fines those in­ci­dents as “an in­di­vid­ual ac­tively en­gaged in killing or at­tempt­ing to kill peo­ple in a pub­lic area.”)

The re­sponse to such events has changed since the Columbine High School shoot­ings in 1999, Simmons said. The “old style” was to se­cure the perime­ter of the build­ing and wait for a SWAT team to ar­rive, he said. But that de­layed po­lice from en­ter­ing the build­ing, and per­haps in­ter­rupt­ing the ram­page and sav­ing lives, Simmons said.

To­day, the state-of-the-art re­sponse is to en­ter as quickly as pos­si­ble. Mul­ti­ple agen­cies have been trained in this newer style of re­sponse, known as the Ad­vanced Law En­force­ment Rapid Re­sponse Train­ing, or ALERRT, de­vel­oped by Texas State Univer­sity, said Mike Copeland, spe­cial agent and ac­tive-shooter co­or­di­na­tor for the Bal­ti­more field of­fice of the FBI.

In Mary­land, 8,000 po­lice and in­struc­tors have been trained since 2013. In Delaware, which man­dates the train­ing for all po­lice, the FBI fin­ished train­ing the ap­prox­i­mately 3,000 of­fi­cers there last year.

The An­napo­lis work­shop in­cluded speak­ers who dis­cussed ALERRT and “res­cue task forces,” in which com­bined teams of po­lice and paramedics en­ter the build­ing to be­gin treat­ing vic­tims as soon as pos­si­ble — even as other of­fi­cers are search­ing for the as­sailant.

The Har­ford County sher­iff’s of­fice had just be­gun train­ing res­cue task forces last year when they im­me­di­ately were put into use: at the Oct. 18, 2017, work­place shoot­ing at Ad­vanced Gran­ite So­lu­tions in Edge­wood. Three work­ers were killed and two of their col­leagues crit­i­cally wounded.

In ad­di­tion to Ad­vanced Gran­ite So­lu­tions, Har­ford has suf­fered other tragic shoot­ings: On Feb. 10, 2016, two sher­iff’s deputies were killed in Abing­don; and on Sept. 20, three work­ers at the Rite Aid dis­tri­bu­tion cen­ter in Per­ry­man were killed and three were in­jured by a temp worker who then killed her­self.

“Here we go again,” read one slide that was part of the pre­sen­ta­tion by Cristie Hop­kins and Kyle Anderson, spokesper­sons for the Har­ford sher­iff. Hop­kins of­fered prac­ti­cal tips for man­ag­ing in­for­ma­tion and con­trol­ling ru­mors dur­ing a cri­sis, such as broad­cast­ing me­dia brief­ings on Face­book and re­leas­ing ba­sic in­for­ma­tion as quickly as pos­si­ble while not dam­ag­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

The work­shop is part of a larger se­ries of train­ing ex­er­cises An­napo­lis and Anne Arun­del had launched even be­fore the Cap­i­tal Gazette shoot­ing.

It will con­tinue through next year with “table­top” dis­cus­sions where emer­gency per­son­nel are given a sce­nario and come up with how they would han­dle it, as well as sim­u­la­tions of an ac­tual event to which they’ll re­spond.

Such train­ing is par­tic­u­larly vi­tal in An­napo­lis, which de­spite be­ing a mere seven square miles, has a mul­ti­tude of agen­cies that can re­spond in an emer­gency, from the city, county and state — and even the Naval Academy, Simmons said.

“You have all these folks com­ing on the scene, bring­ing their own train­ing and tac­tics and pro­to­cols,” he said. “We found out from that ex­pe­ri­ence that we had to get on the same page.”

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