SALT LAKE CITY - The exercise began when the police department response team burst through the door and entered the building.
“Shots fired upstairs on the northwest side of building 103,” said the metallic sounding voice announcing the exercise over the loudspeaker.
The team immediately headed for the stairs and proceeded to the second floor.
“Get your hands up,” yelled one of the officers as the shooter was spotted.
Loud bangs echo through the building as weapons fired blanks.
“One shooter down,” said another officer as the team secures the area.
The exercise ended.
The University of Utah Police Department worked with the Army Reserve’s 76th Operational Response Command and 807th Medical Command Deployment Support to hold an active-shooter training simulation at Fort Douglas, Utah, July 17, 2014.
“It’s important because it’s something that is escalating throughout the nation,” said Detective John W. Thompson, sergeant in charge of investigations at the University of Utah Police Department. “You see all the time that people are involved in shootings that are happening and it has become something that is not as rare as it used to be.”
Many people in Utah are only too familiar with mass shootings, remembering the Trolley Square shooting in 2007 where a lone gunman killed five bystanders and injured four others.
Since then mass shootings have only increased with an estimated 16 occurring in 2013 alone.
“I feel like holding an active shooter situation falls right in line with the Army concept of ‘train as you fight,’” said Master Sgt. Jessica D. Lam, the 76th ORC liaison responsible for helping plan the event. “Active shooters are a real possibility and a threat to us every day, so conducting this exercise helps us identify our strengths and how to be better prepared in training our Soldiers.”
Fort Douglas personnel received prior training from the UUPD in May on how to properly react in active shooter situations and the proper procedures to follow.
“The Army Reserve’s Soldiers and civilian workers are our greatest asset, one that can’t be replaced,” said Maj. Gen. Daniel L. York, commander of the 76th Operational Response Command. “The training received today may very well save a life should they be tragically involved in a shooting incident.”
The Immediate Action Rapid Deployment training was instructed by Thompson who spoke at length about run, hide or fight. This concept emphasizes that the easiest way to save your life is to get out of the situation and if you can’t get out then hide and barricade yourself in and don’t come out until you feel safe or until the police come and get you.
“I think the training is important on many levels,” said Master Sgt. Lewis Flores, 76th ORC emergency preparedness liaison officer noncommissioned officer in charge. “Just to the history of the active shootings that we’ve seen, not only on military installations but also at malls and churches, and I think that it is important that individuals understand this in order to protect themselves and each other from these types of attacks.”
On Thursday, Soldiers and civilian personnel at Fort Douglas were unexpectedly a part of the simulation and were expected to fall back on their training to properly react and respond to the situation. The unannounced exercise enabled participants to practice what they learned in May.
“It created an awareness that we all take for granted,” said Flores. “We all become very complacent and you don’t think about things like that happening, so when the drill occurred, it caused everyone to protect themselves and each other from these types of attacks.”
The Army Reserve realizes the gravity of mass shootings and how an event can affect its employees – on or off-duty. Utilizing training with professional police forces, such as the University of Utah Police Department, allows it to improve safety training for its Soldiers and civilian personnel alike.