Lessons Learned From An Active Shooter Simulation
The sound of gunfire recently filled the halls of the Hampden County Sheriff's office in Ludlow, Massachusetts. It was part of a training for employees to learn how to respond to an active shooter.
In a large conference room, Sheriff Nick Cocchi addressed staff members seated around a long table before the training began.
The Hampden County jail he oversees has tight security for obvious reasons.
But the building right next to it, which houses the offices of the sheriff's department, is open to the public.
"Some people ask, 'Why are we doing this?'" Cocchi said. "We're doing it because there always is a potential possibility, especially in our line of work, that we could get a disenfranchised ex-employee, a family member of one of our offenders, or just somebody from the community who doesn't believe in the mission we carry out each and every day."
Staff members went through three live simulations. During each one, a person impersonating a gunman entered the building and started firing blanks. Law enforcement officers then responded to the scene.
Steve Grasso, a police officer who helped lead the training, gave employees instructions before one of the scenarios.
"What I want you to do is lock your doors, pull blinds if you have them," Grasso said. "Pay attention to the gunshots. If they're out front, barricade in. If you hear those gunshots get further and further away, and off in the distance, and you think you can safely evacuate, that is your call — and no one else can tell you yes or no on that. You can't ask us."
Employees went to their offices and waited.
Office mates Cheryl Racco and Michael Sotherland were among them.
When they heard the gunfire, they closed the door, turned off the lights and pushed a large table in front of the door.
"I think there was so much confusion over where the gunshots were coming from that they got disoriented, and actually exited their offices, and tried to evcauate, when they should have stayed put and barricaded," Grasso said. "If you do not know it's safe to evacuate, then you stay put, and you barricade, and you put yourself in a position to counter if he makes entry. You're buying time for armed officers to respond."
"I would have hid, but I may not have turned turned off the lights," she said. "Probably would have shut the door. Barricading? I would make sure that I did it this time."