News: Cherry Point Marines, emergency responders train for active shooter
Story by Cpl. Scott L. Tomaszycki
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. - It was a nightmare scenario. A lone gunman armed with a rifle in a room full of bleeding victims. As soon as the call for help came, Cherry Point leadership manned the Emergency Operations Center and dispatched emergency responders.
Officer Michael S. Kelly and Sgt. Thomas J. Conway, civilian law enforcement officers with the Provost Marshal’s Office, readied themselves outside the room where the gunman waited. They stepped swiftly through the door, exchanging fire and taking the gunman down.
Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point held a training exercise Oct. 23 to test first responders in a worst-case scenario. As law enforcement personnel dealt with the active shooter, emergency medical technicians cared for the wounded, and explosive ordnance disposal Marines worked with the fire department’s hazardous materials handling team to defuse a suspected dirty bomb.
“We constantly train for situations like this, and to have different entities there with the fire department, EOD and headquarters, it brings it more into focus as to what we would have to do if a real life situation were to happen,” said Conway. “It gives us basically first-hand experience in the communications end of it and the coordination part of responding to a situation like this.”
After the confrontation with the gunman, the officers continued clearing the building to ensure there was no other threat; PMO's special reaction team was dispatched to assist. Once the building was cleared, the first responders started evacuating the wounded so medical technicians could care for them quickly once they arrived on scene.
“We have a wide range of skills, knowledge and abilities that we have to stay current on, and performing an exercise like that is a good way to stay on top of any changes,” said Nicholas Salter, assistant chief of emergency medical services for the Cherry Point fire department.
The department locked down their buildings and took a head count of all department personnel as soon as they heard a shooter was active. Immediately after the all clear, they dispatched all of the necessary services to assist with the situation.
Once on the scene, the fire department’s paramedics arranged for victims to be transported to medical facilities outside the air station where they could receive emergency care.
In another part of the scenario, a call came in regarding a suspicious vehicle. The fire department deployed its HAZMAT team in case there were dangerous chemicals involved. One victim was put through the decontamination process and treated for exposure to unknown substances.
EOD Marines stepped in to neutralize any threat posed by an improvised explosive device. They used two remote-controlled robots to assess the situation. The HAZMAT team placed sensors on the robots to determine just what dangerous chemicals were present and in what quantity. Using a computer program and the data found by the sensors, the HAZMAT team determined the radius and enforced a quarantine zone to protect people from possible chemical contamination.
EOD then executed procedures to disarm the IED threat. Master Sgt. William R. Walker, the staff noncommissioned officer in charge of Cherry Point’s EOD team, said the real benefit from the training was testing communications and the ability for the responding agencies to work together.
“For us, it’s good to see how we may interact with the fire department and PMO and HAZMAT folks, relay information from the guys on the ground to the [emergency operations center], and identify things we may need to improve on or things that may go really well,” said Walker.