Essex Police and Essex Rescue held their first-ever joint exercise last weekend focused on better collaboration during dangerous situations.
“Today has been a learning experience for everybody,” said Essex police captain Ron Hoague, walking through Thomas Fleming Elementary, where dozens of officers and rescue workers spent last Saturday running through four different scenarios.
The goal of the training was to teach police and EMS how to work together so that the latter can provide quicker care during emergency situations, such as an active shooter. Trainers from EPD and Essex Rescue worked together to create the scenarios, which also helped test out the departments’ various equipment.
In one exercise, training groups needed to relocate a 185-pound dummy from the middle of the school’s hallway while dealing with an actor who ran into the scene calling for help. Other exercises forced the teams forced to react to gunfire or deal with multiple live patients.
Hoague said the training follows an approach adapted in the wake of the 2012 shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., where police needed to transport some people to the hospital due to policies prohibiting medics from entering “hot zones” until they are deemed fully safe.
Now, if police can contain the shooter to a different area, this method allows officers to provide security while medics treat anyone who’s injured.
The approach forces both groups two alter their traditional approach, Hoague said. For police, who are usually searching for suspects, officers must assume the role of protector. Rescue workers, meanwhile, must remain vigilant and communicative while still providing necessary care.
After the scenarios, trainers assessed the teams and offered feedback. For example, after one scenario found rescue workers holding onto the back of one of the officer’s bullet-proof vests, a police trainer suggested they instead place their palm on the officer’s back. That way, if the officers needed to quickly aim at a target, their movements won’t be constricted.
“That’s the whole thing: getting everybody to work together,” Hoague said.