PORT ANGELES — First responders from agencies across the North Olympic Peninsula prepared Thursday for a worst-case scenario during the largest active shooter training the Peninsula has seen.
After simulated explosions, officers from federal, state and local agencies rushed through Keegan Hall at the Peninsula College campus in Port Angeles and quickly confronted two mock shooters — quicker than training officers had planned.
“Our hunting teams found the bad guys remarkably quickly and fluidly transitioned from hunting to taking the wounded out of the building,” said Port Angeles Police Department Cpl. David Dombrowski.
“From my perspective, it has gone very well. I’m impressed so far.”
The active shooter training was hosted by the Port Angeles Police Department and Clallam County Sheriff’s Office and included agencies from across Clallam and Jefferson counties.
Participating agencies include Clallam County Emergency Management, the Sequim Police Department, Elwha Police Department, State Patrol, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Port Townsend Police Department, Olympic National Park, Olympic Medical Center, Port Angeles Fire Department, U.S. Coast Guard, Clallam County Fire District No. 2, Red Cross, Olympic Ambulance, Peninsula College and others.
As officers moved through both levels of the building, they were confronted with such obstacles as mock injured people begging for help and people and dummies portraying bodies in pathways.
Actors were told to be in the way and to distract officers to overwhelm their senses. Faux blood covered desks in a lecture room where officers confronted the first mock shooter.
As officers entered the lecture hall, an ersatz victim barged out of the room and ran through the team as it tried to enter through the door.
“Realistically, there would be a lot of people here at the college, a lot of things would be in the way and there would be a lot more chaos than we have here,” said Clallam County Sheriff’s Sgt. Randy Pieper.
“So we’re trying to re-create that somewhat so they have that environment to train in.”
Pieper said the goal is to keep the training as realistic as possible. He said adrenaline is often rushing, even though it’s not a real shooting event.
“The more they do this and the more they use that adrenaline, it helps avoid tunnel vision,” he said. “When training, it’s good to have that mode and know how to work with it and use it for a positive rather than getting in a box or getting trapped.”
Among the key reasons all the agencies train together is because on the North Olympic Peninsula, individual agencies have limited resources.
“We might as well train together as one agency and one team,” Pieper said. “That’s probably what the citizens expect of us.”
Dombrowski said officers are well-trained in finding shooters and eliminating the threat, but there isn’t nearly as much training in what happens next, especially with multiple agencies.
Agencies worked together to triage patients and transfer them to Olympic Medical Center in Port Angeles and to a reunification point. Airlift Northwest also airlifted a patient.
Dombrowski said one of the goals was to “flood the ER at the hospital.”
More than a dozen people were sent to OMC, including one of the mock shooters, he said.
“We shipped the injured shooter to the hospital to see how they would manage that,” he said.
If a real event happens, officials said it will be more complex and chaotic, but Thursday’s and other training events do help.
“When the real thing happens, it will be far more complicated,” Dombrowski said. “But from as much as we could put into this event … we’ve been very successful.”
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].