SCHENECTADY — More than a dozen police and rescue agencies from across the Capital Region descended on the campus of Union College Wednesday to participate in a series of active shooter training exercises.
Around 70 individuals from 15 agencies participated in the training, which simulated three different active shooter scenarios throughout the day. The event was organized by the Schenectady Police Department and included participants from the Stratton Air National Guard base and the Niskayuna, Rotterdam, Saratoga Springs and Colonie police departments, among others.
“It’s incredibly important because we’ve seen in past events throughout the country where things didn’t go as well as first responders in those agencies would have hoped, and a lot of it was due to a lack of preparedness and a lack of training, so trying to get ahead of the game,” said Andrew Dannible, a training officer with the Schenectady Police Department.
Police officers were spotted surrounding the entrance of Karp Hall as others ran into the building in a single-file line. A staging area was set up just outside the building and a mock command center was established in the adjacent Schaffer Library, where officers coordinated the numerous responding agencies.
In the first scenario, police responded to a report of a vehicle accident and were ambushed. The scenario quickly evolved into an active attack situation when the shooter entered the building and officers had to work to secure the building so medics could attend to the wounded, Dannible said.
Police cadets played the role of civilians, while training instructors monitored the exercise from the command center and staging area. A debriefing was held following the scenario, where officers were provided feedback on things they did well, and where improvements can be made.
The importance of communication was also stressed.
“Hopefully one of these events never happens around here, but if it does, we like to think we’ll be as prepared as we can be,” Dannible said.
He added that the training will lead to quicker response times and better coordination between agencies, and that the training could be applied to a number of scenarios, including those at schools, office buildings or large outdoor events — like a parade.
“We hope it never does happen but, at the rate that these things do occur, a lot of us are under the impression it is only a matter of time before something like this does happen within the Capital Region,” Dannible said.
There were 40 active shooter events across the country in 2020, a 100% increase since 2016, when 20 such events occurred, according to FBI data.
An active shooter event, as defined by the FBI, is when “one or more individuals actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area.”
Chris Hayen, director of Union College campus safety, said the heavy police presence on campus was a welcome sight.
He noted that the exercise will allow police to become familiar with the campus, which could prove helpful should a real scenario ever take place.
“We work with these agencies at different times and in different ways, but this is really a way to get them all together to see so many faces and so many people, and for them to really see our campus,” Hayen said. “It’s a plus all around.”
Contact reporter Chad Arnold at: 518-410-5117 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @ChadGArnold.