A mass shooting — whether in a mall, school, municipal office or outdoor venue — is a scene of utter chaos. Emergency personnel from all disciplines must react quickly, focus on confronting the suspect, tend to the wounded and lock down the area to protect citizens and safely collect evidence.

Controlling this chaos can be a daunting task, which is why emergency personnel — from police to fire, EMS to state and federal officials — are regularly training, and retraining, themselves to be ready for such horrific acts.

The latest such training occurred Friday, May 10, when the Echo Hose Ambulance Corps Training Center became home to an active shooter exercise development workshop, with some 70 first responders from numerous area communities taking the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) course.

The goal of the development workshop, according to TEEX instructors, is to provide course participants with the knowledge, templates and information to lead a train-the-trainer active shooter exercise.

“God forbid anything were to ever happen, this course helps train first responders how you run such an event,” said Echo Hose Ambulance Corps Chief Michael Chaffee. “We’ve done these types of training before, and what we know is these courses provide the leadership tools we all need to be successful.”

This particular all-day workshop, steered by three instructors, focused on an active shooter inside a mall. The day began about 8 a.m., with those attending gathered in the large school auditorium inside the training center. After a group discussion, everyone was broken into groups for more focused talks in the former school’s classrooms.

“The scenario can be anything … an active shooter at senior facility, a school, a municipal building,” said Echo Hose Ambulance Assistant Chief Joe Laucella. “The point is to bring all the necessary responders to the table. We focus on strategy and how to do a tabletop exercise. Then we can go back independently to each of our services, our businesses, and better train our employees and team members to be more effective if, God forbid, an incident such as this were to happen.”

Laucella said this latest program helped build on the skills local emergency personnel from all disciplines already in place. Emergency personnel often hold “table-top” exercises with various organizations in the community.

“We get around a table, take up a scenario and walk through the process of the planning, the actual incident itself and recovery after the incident,” said Laucella in describing such exercises. “We talk about the steps to consider if ever had to deal with such an incident. We work through emergency plans we have, identify areas of improvement, and open up a dialogue, which is the most important thing.”

Chaffee said handling such an incident requires specific standards that are consistent across all disciplines, particularly for the leadership teams at such scenes.

“This type of program gives us the tools we need to succeed,” said Chaffee, adding that once complete, those trained can then go back to their jurisdictions and design a program tailored to their specific community.

Previous active shooter events have proven the need for realistic exercises delivered in the community, and TEEX officials state that this course answers that need by providing a train-the-trainer course on how to design and deliver a tabletop exercise.

The active shooter exercise development workshop is a train-the-trainer course designed for individuals who may be responsible for developing and delivering active shooter exercises.

Past events have demonstrated that a key point to the effective whole of community preparation includes coordination across all professional disciplines that have responsibilities in the event of an active shooter incident. Instructors used face-to-face delivery using Microsoft Office products, group activities, and tabletop training to keep participants focused on the goals at hand.

“This brings first responders, the private business community, health care living facilities, security departments, school security together,” said Laucella. “This is a great way to bring all the partners to the table, some who you may not know, and work towards a common goal of making your work place, your community a safer place.”

And being able to host such a program, said the Echo Hose Ambulance personnel, is thanks to the training center.

“It is amazing the amount of dynamic training we are able to do here, from babysitting all the way up to the highest end leadership training,” said Chaffee about the training center. “Being able to have a facility that can support that, give us the space we need, the resources we need. And you can see the results with how many people are here today.”

Chaffee said his organization’s vision has been to have a facility to be able to host these types of programs.

Laucella said that having the training center offers the large gathering space along with break-out classrooms, not easy to find, and amazing to be able to offer.

“To have this kind of resource and space is huge,” said Chaffee. “It is irreplaceable.”

brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com