Active Shooting Drill

During this week’s Citizens’ Police Academy class, Trooper Mungo put out a call for volunteers to participate in a training drill for the Pennsylvania State Police. It sounded interesting, so I signed up.

The Active Shooting Drill took place this morning. Four of my classmates and I arrived at the assigned room and were given our roles and a sheet of paper telling the scenario we were to act out. It revolved around an employee with 20+ years of service being terminated (“downsized”). He left the building without incident, but returned after retrieving his handgun from his glovebox. He headed for the administrative office looking for the supervisor who fired him. One coworker was leaving the office to go to the restroom, saw him with the gun and ran to the front door. Another coworker in the hall yelled at him and was shot, but managed to crawl into the hallway. Yet another coworker was shot in the head and killed.

That left me. I was supposed to be a coworker at my desk who hears the gun fire and hides under my desk, calling 9-1-1 on my cell phone, while the shooter and the supervisor have a heated verbal exchange.

After everyone had arrived, and we’d all been given white t-shirts to indicate that we were participants in the drill (plus the shooting victims were given pink hats), we moved to the administrative office to see our setting. The room was huge, wide-open, and filled with lots and lots of cubicles. I was shown “my desk.” And then we were left alone while the troopers went outside to trade their very real weapons for “red guns,” which are training weapons. Yes, they are red. But the important part to me is they have no firing pins!

Our “shooter” was given a whistle, which he was to blow every time he “shot” his gun. Having heard much gunfire at the sportsmen’s club, the whistle was mild. But it served the purpose.

Once everyone was in place, the acting began. I dived under the desk with my cell phone and watched and listened to the argument. Let me just say, we had some great actors involved in this. After what felt like an eternity, the troopers came in and put the shooter under arrest. But then they had to clear the rest of the room, including me. I was ordered at gunpoint to keep my hands where they could see them. NO PROBLEM. There is nothing quite like having an assault rifle—even a red one—aimed at you to make you eager to comply!

We ran through the scenario twice so that two different teams could take part. Afterwards, we returned to the classroom for a debriefing. They discussed how that large, open room, with all the cubicles was something of a nightmare for the police. Even with the shooter and the supervisor engaged in a loud argument, the troopers had some difficulty finding us. Plus the cubicles created a maze that was challenging to negotiate. Not to mention the number of places to hide. It was a good thing I wasn’t a second shooter because my hiding spot under the desk wasn’t immediately discovered by the second team.

From my perspective, it really did feel like a long time before the police arrived. That’s not a criticism of the response. Rather, if you’ve ever had to call for an ambulance or any kind of emergency personnel, you know how two minutes feels like two hours. As I listened to the confrontation going on and on, it struck me that the police were already on scene for this situation. Ordinarily, they wouldn’t even be dispatched until I made that 9-1-1 call from under the desk. In real life, it would have gone on even longer.

But it was my own reaction to my role that had me wondering. I was playing the part of a terrified office worker, hiding. Is that what I would really have done? Probably not. And not because I’m brave or heroic. Far from it. The truth is I felt like a sitting duck down there. If the shooter had spotted me, I’d have nowhere to run. Plus, I kept thinking how those flimsy cubicle dividers would never stop a bullet. Where I was hiding, I couldn’t see all that much. Not the “body” of my coworker, although I saw the shooter enter and fire at him. I couldn’t see much of the confrontation either, although I could hear the cries for help. Would I have shouted out that I’d called the police and they were on their way? It wasn’t part of my assigned role, but I considered doing it. Of course, that might have drawn the shooter’s attention to me.

I don’t know. I’m glad it was all pretend, and I didn’t have to make those hard choices.

What about you? If you were in that role, how do you think you’d have responded? Unfortunately, in today’s society, it’s not exactly farfetched.


Donnell said…
Annette, I don't know how I can say this to you... but I'm so jealous!!! I imagine even with that whistle every time you heard it your adrenaline went into overdrive.

I think this is an amazing drill and unfortunately, I can see these drills becoming common place throughout schools and the workplace.

What do you think? Oh, I can just imagine your writing from this. I am in for some fantastic reading!

Well done!
B L Maguire said…
I was with you under that desk, Annette, thinking about escape and how flimsy most things are for stopping a bullet.

But it sounds like a great volunteer opportunity! Thanks for telling us about it!
Ramona said…
Wow, Annette. What an experience.

But how sad is it that workplace shootings are so common, troopers have to specifically train for one?
Annette said…
It is sad that this kind of drill has become so necessary. Also sad that the scenario sounded all too plausible with today's economy and unemployment.
Tamara said…
Annette - wow. This was a great read for me. It is really scary, wondering how you would react, trying to plan for something that is impossible to plan for. I just pray I'm never in a situation where I have to make those choices.

Thanks for sharing,
Anonymous said…
Wow, what an experience, Annette! I'm going to have to contact my local police department & see if they have something similar. It seems a great way to research our stories, especially to get into a victim's psyche & reactions.

We would all like to think that we're brave & would do something in those situations, but the truth is something many of us will never know (thankfully). Still, it's very cool to get any semblance of that experience.

Great post!

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