On Tuesday, Aug. 7 Vienna High School hosted an Active Intruder Law Enforcement Response Training presentation and demonstration. The event was held from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Several law enforcement agencies were in attendance including Vienna and Goreville Police Departments, Johnson County Sheriff’s Office, Illinois State Police, school resource officers, Shawnee National Forest Law Enforcement, Johnson County Ambulance, Johnson County Emergency Management, school officials, Animal Service, and various others.
School Resource Officer David Stewart led the event. He has worked for the Vienna Police Department for 25 years.
Stewart presented information to the audience with information about an active intruder situation. Stewart said an active intruder, or shooter, is any situation where an armed person or persons goes into a place to cause harm to the people inside.
The situation will be total chaos, he said. Emergency response teams and officers will be coming in at different times, some of them not in uniform, and they won’t be able to communicate well.
The environmental conditions include unfamiliar surroundings, extreme emotions, fire alarms going off, smoke, water, noise, and victims in unpredictable places that are injured or dead.
The situation is time sensitive. These situations usually last a few minutes, but the aftermath can take all day.
“Once this happens, plan on being here a long time,” said Stewart.
He said there are two different types of intruders: intruders after specific people, and the ones who are after anyone. Stewart said the ones after anyone are the most dangerous.
The physiological response for both the emergency responders, and the intruders themselves, include high blood pressure, respiration, heart rate, adrenaline, vasoconstriction, and rapid eye movement.
“You have to know how to work through it,” said Stewart.
With this in mind, school resource officers, or law enforcement present outside of a situation, should be aware of what an intruder will be going through. They will be nervous, and already going through these physiological responses.
Stewart said interviews he’s reviewed of active intruders after the incident always said they feel like they were hovering above their bodies, watching himself commit a crime. With this in mind, he encouraged officers to not hesitate to talk to a student who looks like he or she could be going through this.
The guidelines for dealing with an active intruder have changed over the years. Stewart said the requirement was to set up a perimeter and wait for everyone to arrive. But, they have learned you can’t do that.
The first priority is to stop the threat. This means skipping rooms, walking over victims, and moving fast enough that you can still shoot, but not so fast that you can’t or that you put yourself in danger.
“You’re going in blind,” Stewart said.
Responders might not know the school very well, and the situation is fluid. They can’t know what to expect.
“Our mission is to save as many lives as we can,” Stewart said.
The first officer who arrives needs to contact his colleagues, and get in. Many times, doors will be locked to a school, so you may have to break a window or break down a door.
“I don’t care how you get in-just get in,” said Superintendent Joshua Stafford.
The situation will consist of teams, including contact teams, search and rescue teams, security and containment teams, and incident command teams. Parents will be showing up, panicking, trying to get in the school, and teams will need to be outside to send the parents, and anyone else, to a safe place.
Once the active shooter is neutralized, Stewart said that is when EMS personnel will come in to get the victims out. Of course, restraining the shooter will be a difficult job on its own. It would certainly help to have equipment ready that can neutralize a shooter from posing an active threat to others. With that in mind, it might be a good idea to have a look at some tactical handcuff reviews if you want to be prepared for the possibility of having to restrain an active shooter.
The plan is organized with teams, priorities and other factors, but Stewart stressed this plan is designed for a perfect world. It’s possible there will be fewer officers than needed during the situation, and the situation in general is unpredictable.
Active demonstration training followed the presentation for the officers present.
Before they began, Deputy Aubrey Edwards of Johnson County Sheriff’s Department said this was his first time being trained for this type of situation.
“I’m excited,” he said.
If he had to deal with a live active intruder situation, he said he believes he would be anxious and scared.
“[The training] is definitely a good learning experience,” said Deputy Dylan Lyle of the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department.
“This is going to be a busy day,” would be the first thought Jim Haney, of Johnson County ESDA, said.
His part of the job would consist helping with management of the teams. He has received different types of training for this type of event, but never dealt with a live situation.
The scenarios consisted of high school students who volunteered to be the victims, and officers who volunteered to act as the shooters. All of the armed responders were required to place their weapons in their vehicles before the demonstration, and they used air soft guns and eye goggles.
The police officers came in, with victims howling and in their path, so that officers would have to step over them to trace where the intruder is located. Once the shooter was taken down, he is cuffed and secured. Then, they start checking rooms, hallways, stairwells, and everywhere else to find victims and get them out.
Although the scenarios were allowed to be fairly short, Stewart said this is not going to be over in a couple of hours. It will take the whole day to get everywhere secured, the victims to medical care, and everyone to safety.