How one NJ county plans for the worst: an active shooting

-b6d61c6f906e2165Salem County active shooter drill, March 10, 2016 – Law enforcement agencies in Salem County conduct an active shooter drill at Salem Community College, in Carneys Point.

Original article: http://www.nj.com/salem/index.ssf/2016/03/how_one_nj_county_plans_for_the_worst_an_active_sh.html

By Brittany M. Wehner | For NJ.com



The sound of gun shots echoed through a South Jersey college building while ear-shattering screams could be heard from inside Thursday as law enforcement surrounded the property.

The sounds were only part of an active shooter drill — a simulated scenario involving actors and law enforcement agencies throughout Salem County in an effort to train for potential real-life danger.

The sheriff’s office, county prosecutor’s office, and Salem County Office of Emergency Management conducted the drill, which simulated two gunmen entering Salem Community College and shooting seven victims.

Roughly 30 participants acted in the exercise, which shined a light on the possibility of a very real, terrifying situation.

“Me just sitting out here watching this and listening on the radio gives you the chills because it sounds so real. We have to stay a step ahead of the bad guys,” Pennsville Police Chief Allen J. Cummings said.

From Columbine to the Sandy Hook shooting, law enforcement needs to always be prepared in today’s society, according to Cummings.

There was an eerie silence outside of the Salem college just after 12:30 p.m. until two words changed everything: “shots fired!”

Within seconds the silence turned into sporadic sounds of gunfire and screams as the two gunmen made their way through the college building.

Law enforcement could be seen checking the doors around the perimeter until a handful of students were quickly and safely escorted out of the building — some simulated injuries while others passed on comforting words.

“It was a really freaky experience — you’re right there in it,” said Jeremiah Mullica, a participant and “victim.”

The drill continued until all of the participants were safely evacuated from the building, one gunman injured, the other in custody. Emergency response crews were also on site, tending to those who had been “injured” in the shooting.

A hostage situation then surfaced with a gunman and victim in the restroom inside of the building, while radio scanners and security footage was broadcasted at a posted command center.

Actions were logged along the way by evaluators, video recordings and helmet-cams so that the law enforcement agencies could review the footage and learn from the process.

The county conducts these drills at various locations throughout the area, from high schools and the college, to other facilities that would attract someone committing this type of crime or hostage situation.

Salem County Emergency Service Operations Officer Robert DiGregorio spearheaded the drill and said the exercise went smoothly, but it won’t be until they debrief and review all of the video and notes to see what was done well and what would need to be done differently.

The biggest key Thursday, DiGregorio said, was assuring the proactive communication aspect of the drill — which lasted about an hour.

While law enforcement agencies said the afternoon was a success, it was also a reminder of the need to always be prepared for the worst.