Wright-Patt conducts active-shooter exercise

A member of the 88th Security Forces Squadron secures a room during an active-shooter exercise at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base on Feb. 24. Readiness exercises are routinely held to streamline unit cohesion when responding to emergencies. U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO/WESLEY FARNSWORTH

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A member of the 88th Security Forces Squadron secures a room during an active-shooter exercise at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base on Feb. 24. Readiness exercises are routinely held to streamline unit cohesion when responding to emergencies. U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO/WESLEY FARNSWORTH

Security Forces, emergency personnel sharpen response skills

During an installation-wide exercise Feb. 24, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base went into full lockdown as first responders rushed to the scene of a simulated active shooter.

In response to the resulting “emergency” announcements, personnel all over the base followed training guidance and barricaded themselves in places of safety, hidden from view, in the event the “shooter” was in their vicinity or not acting not alone.

“Even though some time has passed since we’ve exercised active-shooter response to this degree, everyone involved met the challenge and reacted well to the scenario,” said Garth Freund, 88th Air Base Wing exercise planner. “It’s extremely important that base personnel and responders actually walk the ground, to create muscle memory, to be able to work through problems and learn from them. In the long run, it could make the difference between a successful response and a failure.”

Upon entering the multistory Bldg. 434 on Area B, where the incident scenario took place, 88th Security Forces Defenders systematically searched inside, floor-by-floor, to locate, isolate and neutralize the “shooter.” After entering the second floor during the search, a Security Forces member was “shot” in the leg by the assailant, requiring self-aid and buddy care.

Fire Department and other first responders also arrived quickly on the scene to triage “victims” and prepare them for transport to local medical facilities.

After stopping the “shooter,” Security Forces personnel remained on task and vigilant until it was certain there were no additional shooters in the area.

“All clear” was announced throughout the base, but exercise activities at the scene remained in high gear, as first responders transitioned from response to recovery mode.

During the exercise, the Commander’s Action Team and Emergency Operations Center were stood up to help coordinate ongoing operations and dispatch resources to the on-scene commander. Group and unit-control centers were directed to perform accountability checks to verify the whereabouts of all base personnel and ensure no one was missing.

Just as the last “wounded” individual was removed from the building, a simulated explosive device was located outside. The area was evacuated and explosive-ordnance disposal specialists arrived to assess the nature of the device and remove the “threat.”

Investigators then began the process of sorting out the entire incident’s details. Specialized teams and personnel also arrived to start the process of cleanup and restoration of facilities.

As the active-shooter exercise ended, life returned to normal on base. The 88th Air Base Wing’s inspection team members turned to the task of collecting and assessing observations to determine how Wright-Patt can be better prepared for a real active-shooter event, should it ever occur.

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Members of the 88th Security Forces Squadron clear a building during an active-shooter exercise at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base on Feb. 24. U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO/WESLEY FARNSWORTH

Members of the 88th Security Forces Squadron clear a building during an active-shooter exercise at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base on Feb. 24. U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO/WESLEY FARNSWORTH

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Members of the 88th Security Forces Squadron clear a building during an active-shooter exercise at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base on Feb. 24. U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO/WESLEY FARNSWORTH

“This exercise shows us Wright-Patterson is fully prepared to respond in an emergency,” Freund said. “Exercises like these are critical for base leadership and first responders to review internal procedures and policies. They help ensure our units are ready in the event of a real-world incident or crisis.”

Situations involving active shooters can be terrifying and entirely unpredictable. While law enforcement immediately responds to the shooter, officials say actions taken by individuals in harm’s way until police arrive can save lives.

Freund said periodic training, individual actions, and knowing what to do if an active-shooter situation were to happen and then being prepared to act quickly remains a vital piece of preparedness.

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