Practice drill helps keep first responders ready for major emergency

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Practice drill helps keep first responders ready for major emergency

July 29, 2016 - 15:05
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Some of the first officers on the scene of an 
active shooter training exercise Thursday 
prepare to enter James Hart School.

(Photos by Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)

The active shooter drill at James Hart School on Thursday, July 28, was over in about two hours, but local emergency responders packed a lot of training into that brief time.

Homewood Police Deputy Chief Denise McGrath said in an actual shooting incident it takes law enforcement officers days to complete the investigation after the violent episode has ended.
 

  H-F High School football 
  players head into James 
  Hart School to play the 
  roles of victims in a 
  simulated active shooter 

  scenario. 

"We accomplished a lot," McGrath said. "We speed things up so we can encompass a lot in the time we have."

The drill brought together first responders from the immediate area, including Homewood Fire Department and police offers from Homewood, East Hazel Crest, Glenwood, Thornton and Flossmoor. Homewood Public Works crews assisted by setting up barriers to seal off the area from traffic. 

Dispatchers from E-COM directed the response. E-COM provides 911 services to Homewood, Flossmoor, Glenwood, Riverdale, Hazel Crest and South Holland. The center is located in Homewood.
 

  Two H-F High School 
  football players place 
  911 calls to initiate the 
  active shooter drill on 
  Thursday.
 

Teachers and administrators from Homewood School District 153 and Homewood-Flossmoor High School participated as observers along with village officials.

"If it's a school incident, teachers are going to be a great resource for the police as far as managing things once the threat is neutralized," McGrath said. "We want them to be educated on what they need to do to help their students, to help us, to help themselves. We're always happy to see them come out and participate."

About 20 volunteers from the H-F High School football team served as victims and bystanders for the incident.

The simulated shooting incident began shortly after 9 a.m. when two of the football players called 911 to report that something was happening at the school. The players said they were advised to make their initial report brief in order to allow dispatchers to practice eliciting information from a caller. 

Within minutes, Homewood police vehicles started arriving at the scene, followed shortly by vehicles from other participating departments. Officers quickly entered the school to address the threat. 

"The initial goal is always to neutralize that threat," McGrath said. "Generally, those are not long, drawn-out scenarios. It's everything you have to do after that to verify that there's no other threat in the building, to tend to the injured, to assess the situation, to call in all the other resources. Those are the things that make an actual incident go on for days."

Officers know in advance the drill will involve an active shooter, but details emerge as they might in an actual incident, through radio communication and observation.

In the simulation Thursday, there was a twist. After the first shooter was neutralized and officers began securing the immediate area, they heard more shots fired. They had a second shooter to deal with, requiring them to quickly shift priorities.

The two "bad guys" in the scenario were played by Homewood police detectives. 

Some of the football players were asked to serve as casualties. They wore tags that represented the type and extent of injuries, which gave emergency medical personnel a chance to practice triage.

Homewood officers coordinate and direct the entire drill.

Reinforcements arrive. Officers from Glenwood, 
East Hazel Crest and Glenwood police 
departments participated in the drill and 
Flossmoor police officers served as 

observers.