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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Active shooter exercise keeps Youngstown ready to respond

by Eric M. White
910th Airlift Wing Public Affairs Office


3/19/2014 - YOUNGSTOWN AIR RESERVE STATION, Ohio -- Are you prepared to respond appropriately if an active shooter enters your workplace and opens fire? That's the question the 910th Airlift Wing Inspection Team sought to answer with a base-wide training exercise here, March 18.

The exercise began at 9:10 A.M. when coordinators triggered the mass notification system. Bright lights flashed in base buildings as audio messages informed personnel that an exercise was commencing. WIT members were careful to keep details hidden until the scenario began.

"We don't want people prepping for the exercise," said Air Force Reserve Captain Adam Schubel, a pilot with the 773rd Airlift Squadron and deputy inspection planner for the 910th AW. "We want it to be as real as possible."

Shortly after the exercise notification, personnel in the headquarters building were jolted from their work by the sound of simulated weapon fire and a frantic voice shouting, "exercise, active shooter, exercise, active shooter." A masked gunman moved from office to office with an orange training rifle and sidearm complete with gunfire sound effects, before hiding in a crowded training room. Inspectors, identified by bright safety vests, watched and noted the responses of base personnel.

YARS went under a total lockdown and was elevated to Force Protection Level Delta as first responders stepped into action. A 910th Security Forces Squadron fire team began a sweep of the headquarters building where the active shooter was reported. Moving in formation through hallways and offices, the fire team searched for the shooter, eventually exchanging simulated fire to neutralize him.

"First responders get some very valuable training out of it," said Schubel, "but in reality, we want everybody to get valuable training. It helps us evaluate evacuation and lockdown procedures and measure how well personnel respond."

Once the building was cleared of immediate danger, YARS fire and emergency services personnel set up triage stations outside headquarters and began treating those affected. The responders found several training dummies throughout the building with placards indicating the extent of their injuries. Other base personnel, identified by WIT members as wounded or deceased, were marked with similar placards and artificial wounds.

"When we respond to incidents like an active shooter situation, we know that people we call friends and comrades could be injured or deceased, and that is a tough pill to swallow," said John Lewis, II, YARS fire emergency services chief. "That is the prime reason we participate in the response exercises. It prepares us for this type of incident and we revel in the opportunities to support and take care of the folks on this installation."

Shortly after the exercise began, key personnel reported to the Emergency Operations Center to work through response processes and checklists. The EOC provides a centralized location for communication and response actions. The first priority after such an emergency is to account for personnel.

Once full accountability of base personnel was achieved, the end of the exercise was sounded throughout the base. That's when the real work began for the WIT. They will spend days sorting through after action reports and discussing lessons learned during the event.

The primary purpose of disaster exercises is to identify and correct response weaknesses, ensuring the safety and security of personnel and property. Preparedness helps preserve personnel and assets should a real-world disaster ever occur.

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