Multi-agency active shooter simulation held at Rocky Vista University

Emergency crews help move a “victim” during a multi-agency active shooter drill held at Rocky Vista University, Ivins, Utah, July 10, 2018 | Photo courtesy of Dan Lund, St. George News

IVINS — Rocky Vista University held an active shooter training simulation on Tuesday to help prepare university staff and first responders in case of an emergency.  

The “shooter” is taken down as officers work through a multi-agency active shooter drill held at Rocky Vista University, Ivins, Utah, July 10, 2018 | Photo courtesy of Dan Lund, St. George News

The training included an intimidating “active shooter” wearing camo and a bulletproof vest who shot approximately 138 blanks and 75 shotgun blanks during the simulation.

Part of the training was to help teach officers how to multitask and deal with distractions during an emergency. In addition to the shooter, a fake bomb was in place. Actors played the part of the victims, running toward the officers, lying on the ground and crying for help.

Once the police had managed the situation, the fire department and emergency medical services trainees came in to practice triage, tend to the “wounded” actors and load them into the Intermountain Life Flight and Mercy Air (Nevada) helicopters that flew in for the event.  

University staff practiced what they should do in an active shooter situation.

Terry Meyer, department of public safety supervisor and security emergency manager for Rocky Vista, is retired from California law enforcement and upon beginning his job at the university he quickly began training faculty and staff in “run, hide, fight” principles.

Officers from Santa Clara and Washington County work through a multi-agency active shooter drill held at Rocky Vista University, Ivins, Utah, July 10, 2018 | Photo courtesy of Dan Lund, St. George News

Most of the faculty and staff chose to shelter in place, he said. Several of those in attendance said the training was helpful for them because they had never heard a gunshot before, but now they know what to listen for.

“The whole point of this is that everybody learns something,” Meyer said.

Several departments participated in the training. The Santa Clara-Ivins police, fire and emergency medical services departments, Washington County Sheriff’s Department and Dixie State University Police were involved in the training, as was the Southwest Utah Public Health Department in addition to Mercy Air and Intermountain Life Flight.

Approximately 60 employees, 25 “victims,” 20 officers and 16 EMS and fire personnel went to the training.

There has been an average of one active shooter situation per week, Meyer said, prompting more trainings like the one at the university to better prepare people.

Sgt. Jaron Studly from the Santa Clara-Ivins Police Department said that while they have drills like this on a regular basis, this was the first of its caliber.

Emergency responders load a “victim” into an Intermountain Life Flight helicopter during a multi-agency active shooter drill held at Rocky Vista University, Ivins, Utah, July 10, 2018 | Photo courtesy of Dan Lund, St. George News

It was the first drill that the Santa Clara-Ivins Police Department had where people played the part of victims. Firefighters and EMS personnel are not always included in their training either, but having all of the departments there was better practice, as one team cannot function without the other.

Because Rocky Vista University is only a year old and is a private university, it is different from most of the school shooting drills the department has had. Studly said it was beneficial for them to train there to get to know the layout of the building.

The training is stressful, he added. They are asking their officers to do the “unthinkable,” by walking into an active shooter situation and being expected to resolve it. A few of the officers had only been on the job for two months.

“This tests us, it lets us know what we’re made of, it lets us know things that we need to work on as a department training-wise, it lets us know the capabilities of the officers, if there are any confidence issues,” Studly said.

The department identified areas for improvement. First, Studly said, they need to have more drills outside of the department.

Emergency crews help move a “victim” during a multi agency active shooter drill held at Rocky Vista University, Ivins, Utah, July 10, 2018 | Photo courtesy of Dan Lund, St. George News

The Sheriff’s Department and the Santa Clara-Ivins Police Department do not usually train together, and therefore have slightly varying tactics. Studly would like to see them train together more often to be on the same page.

Mistakes were made during the drill, and a debriefing allowed time to discuss the mistakes, what can be done better in the future and what participants want to learn.

Studly said it’s easy to criticize others for mistakes after a drill like this, but he had never seen such a constructive debriefing before today.

Studly said the department will definitely have a simulation like this again. It wants to give its officers the chance to experience these trainings in case of a real-life situation.

“I’m a firm believer that it’s a matter of when, not if,” said Studly.

Email: mshoup@stgnews.com

Twitter:  @STGnews | @MikaylaShoup

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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