Police, fire departments participate in active shooter training

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published December 10, 2015

 Deputy Police Chief Steven Lambert talks with members of the department before the start of training.

Deputy Police Chief Steven Lambert talks with members of the department before the start of training.

Photo by Kristyne E. Demske

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Fire trucks and police cars filled the parking lot of the former Church of St. Gertrude on Jefferson Avenue Dec. 10, with officers storming the building in full gear and face masks.

While there wasn’t an actual active shooter in the building, the St. Clair Shores Police and Fire departments were training for just that eventuality.

Deputy Police Chief Steven Lambert said the Police Department conducts active shooter training in the city every year, but this is the first year that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has suggested that police incorporate fire departments into the training, as well.

“It’s evolved a lot since Columbine,” Lambert said, referring to the Colorado high school massacre of 1999.

Instead of police now just entering a location and searching and trying to stop the active shooter, bypassing those who are injured, now the goal is to incorporate the Fire Department so that some of those victims can receive aid before the building is completely clear.

The goal is to “fine tune it,” Lambert said.

Although FEMA released the new standards earlier this year, Lambert said it has become more relevant because of the Dec. 2 shootings in San Bernardino, California, which left 14 people dead and another 21 injured.

“Now, it’s unfortunately gotten to the point where we don’t want people dying while the building’s being searched,” he said. “You can’t say that it will never happen. You’ve got to train for when it does happen.”

The training is needed, he said, because fire officials have “never been this close to the action.”

“We have to work together. What the whole goal is, is all facets of the public safety working together,” he said. “They’re going in under police guard, grabbing the victims and getting them to treatment or safety.”

At the Dec. 7 City Council meeting, City Manager Mike Smith said he addressed concerns about any potential active shooting situation in the city and learned that, “we’re as prepared as we can be.”

The St. Clair Shores Police Department has an officer on staff that provides training to other departments, as well, to prepare for such situations. He said the department is also investigating updating some warning system equipment.

“We’re aware, we’re alert,” Smith said, adding that citizens are the first line of defense. “If you see something and it doesn’t look right, report it. Let us know.”

St. Clair Shores Fire Chief George Morehouse said that training is always important to prepare officers for any eventuality.

“Any kind of training, because of the way the world is turning, we never know, so we have to attempt to be prepared,” he said. “The best that can come out of this is organized chaos.”

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