Local emergency agencies hold active shooter training

Solomon Gustavo photo • First responders from around the region — including the New Brighton Department of Public Safety, Roseville and St. Anthony fire departments, the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office and Allina paramedics, among others — participated in active shooter training at the former Korean United Methodist Church in New Brighton in late May.

Solomon Gustavo photos • New Brighton city staffer Cady Altomari played the part of a dead person with a head wound during active shooter training. Fake bodies were strewn about so first responders could practice marking the already deceased. A student from a volunteer group played the part of an injured person heading to the triage outside.

The condemned building of the former Korean United Methodist Church in New Brighton has proven an apt site for Ramsey County and local emergency agencies to train for an active shooter in a big, public place. 

The training scenario on May 23, which was the last of a three-day session that started May 21, was multiple active shooters in a school. 

But Director of Ramsey County Emergency Management and Homeland Security Judd Freed said the tactics and lessons gleaned from the active shooter sessions translate to any circumstance where people are killed, injured or where people need to be rescued and someone causing harm needs to be stopped. 

“It could be someone driving into a building,” said Roseville Assistant Fire Chief and emergency manager David Brosnahan. 

Freed referenced the gas explosion that killed two people and injured nine at Minnehaha Academy in Minneapolis last year as another situation in which such active shooter training could be useful. Along with the type of threat, Freed also stressed the type of building — school, business or church — also doesn’t matter as much, saying an attack of any kind can happen anywhere. 

Police, firefighters and emergency medical service personnel from across the region — including from the New Brighton Department of Public Safety, Roseville and St. Anthony fire departments, the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office and Allina paramedics, among others — used the many rooms, doors, corners and echoey hallways of the former church to practice coming together for an emergency. 

St. Anthony Fire Chief Mark Sitarz said collaborative training was the natural thing to do because the neighboring agencies already come together for emergencies. 


Inside the scenario

Freed said there were two objectives for the evening’s training session scenario: stop the killing and stop the dying. Emergency agents first practiced finding and suppressing all active shooters, then evacuating the injured to a triage area just outside. 

The outside area of the scenario was blocked off by a line of emergency vehicles — firetrucks and ambulances — in order to protect people outside and provide a safe zone for the injured to get immediate treatment before being rushed to the hospital. 

Freed said that even if a person is severely injured, if they are transported to the hospital in an hour, there’s a much better chance of saving them. He called it “the golden hour.”

Shooters in the scenario were played by other officers. Participants used simulated weapons that Freed said shoot small, paintball-like bullets that sting a little more than a typical paintball, and have the same weight and feel of real guns. Those playing the deceased or injured were civilians like students and city staffers. The halls were intentionally filled with smoke to simulate the “haze” of an emergency, Freed said, and firecrackers were lit to give the halls an “acrid,” gunpowder smell. Fake bodies were strewn about so emergency agents could practice marking those who’d been “killed.”

Freed, Brosnahan, Sitarz and other ranking officials wore neon vests, walking throughout the scenarios taking notes. Freed said local agencies are constantly working on tactics in preparation for violent events like the Parkland, Florida, school shooting in February, in which the shooter attempted to sneak away by pretending to be one of the evacuated victims. Following the the training sessions, the agencies plan to convene to discuss best practices. 

Freed said active shooter training has been happening consistently through Ramsey County Emergency Management for the past two years. The City of New Brighton allowed the use of the former church building because the city’s department of public safety has control of it until the condemned building is demolished. 

The training and tactics are not meant to be top-secret, Freed added, pointing out local agencies wish to be transparent about their training efforts. 


– Solomon Gustavo can be reached at sgustavo@lillienews.com or 651-748-7815

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