First-of-its-kind active shooter simulation brings many agencies together

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Education

POSTED: Wednesday, May 21, 2014 - 5:00am

UPDATED: Wednesday, May 21, 2014 - 10:05pm

A training exercise years in the making should let people in Baton Rouge feel safer, especially members of the LSU community.

Local, state, and federal law enforcement practiced an active shooter simulation at the Middleton Library. The entire library was taped off, and part of Dalrymple Drive was shut down for the exercise, which lasted about two hours.

It began with a pair of simulated gunshots. Soon after, more than 60 police officers from LSU Police Dept., Baton Rouge Police Dept. East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office, and Louisiana State Police rushed into the building.

"This is an opportunity for us to put all of our emergency plans into practice, and really test the coordination of the responses, as well as the coordination of the investigation that's gonna occur afterwards," said Cpt. Cory Lalonde, spokesman for LSU PD.

The first responders were staged in the band hall prior to the start of the drill, so they did not know which building they would use. Soon after the police arrived, paramedics with East Baton Rouge EMS and Acadian Ambulance joined them to begin treating the "victims," dozens of LSU students and staff.

"I think it's important for our first responders to be able to get an understanding of campus and the location, and where they need to go when they need to report for an emergency," Kenissa McKay said of her reason for volunteering. "That's something that a lot of outside law enforcement, they don't get that opportunity."

"With all the things that are going on on college campuses across the nation, it's scary," added Shannon Roche, a counselor in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Roche and McKay, the communications manager for the Olinde Career Center, played gunshot victims. They wore wounds of makeup applied by staff from 13th Gate. They were given cards that described their injuries and their locations, but the volunteers were told to act only as they would if they were witness to a real shooting.

After the "shooter" was detained and the building secured, the "victims" received treatment from firefighters and paramedics, while detectives took statements. The FBI, state attorney general's office, and local district attorney's office were among the 15 organizations that partnered on the drill.

"This is the first time we've ever done anything to this type of scale with this many entities involved," Lalonde noted.

Lalonde claimed that having volunteers occupy the library made the simulation much more accurate.

"Of course, safety is our number one priority," he added, "but we do want to make it as real as possible, and those role players are a great assist in helping us to make that reality possible."

This drill took several years to plan and organize, and grew out of smaller exercises performed by LSU PD officers. Even though they used staged the simulation on campus, the first responders will be able to use the lessons they learned anywhere.

"You see it time and time again, that these types of situations can happen anywhere," Lalonde mentioned. "It could be on a college campus, it could be in a movie theater. it could be in a shopping mall, or a shopping center."

The drill also benefited the volunteers, who have watched acts of violence at other campuses across the country.

"As staff, students, and first responders, I think it's important to all be prepared and be aware that this could happen anywhere," McKay said. "And it's important for us to be prepared, too."

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