MIDDLE RIVER — If you heard multiple shots fired in quick succession and a fire alarm going off for about 10 minutes on the morning of Aug. 26 in Middle River, you probably heard the nearby active-shooter training exercise at the Warfield Air National Guard Base that was hosted by the 175th Wing of the Maryland Air National Guard.
In a simulation to help the base prepare for a potential active-shooter event, several hundred airmen were involved in role play and assessment of appropriate response, according to exercise director Lt. Col. Paul Doran. He designed the scenario to help airmen understand how to prepare for and respond to such an incident.
“It is a scary event, and the danger and risk is high,” Doran said. “The better prepared and equipped and rehearsed we are, the better we respond and can mitigate the threat.”
For the simulated exercise, participants used M4 carbines with blank firing adapters and blank ammunition, which caused noise and smoke just like a regular gun would, and they set off the fire alarms in the building.
“It was about as realistic as it can get,” Master Sgt. Chris Schepers said, who participated in the exercise. “Responders had a heightened stress level with the noises and alarms going off, and the intensity was ramped up pretty high.”
Before the exercise began, Doran crafted and released a simulated intelligence report about an extremist group that was preparing to protest at the base, and in the report, a higher command recommended that the base improve its security posture and readiness. The protest escalated into violence, and an active shooter intent on harm breached the perimeter fence.
From then on, the base was evaluated on how they would respond if this had been a real-world situation.
“The reality is that this is a real threat,” Doran said, “It is something that we must think about and respond to as quickly and effectively as possible to minimize the danger to the base.”
In about 10 minutes, personnel on base worked at a fast pace to lock and/or barricade doors and windows and get out of the line of sight, and security forces were deployed to neutralize the threat.
Base personnel also had to identify and contact anti-terrorism working groups who are charged with protecting the base when an increased threat exists, and use the expertise of base commanders to make decisions on how deal with the physical threat. In addition, they had to dispatch services for emergency response.
In designing the scenario, Doran wanted to make sure every component and part of the process was integrated. He also included a mass casualty response for after the threat was neutralized, so medical personnel on site could practice treating victims. Several simulated victims were staged around the base with various levels of injury ranging from least to most severe.
Meanwhile, around 20 evaluators were located around the base to look at the performance of personnel involved.
“Everyone did a great job,” Doran said about the simulation. “I was impressed with the response time.”
Ideally, Doran said, the base tries to hold an active-shooter exercise once a year, and he focuses on training and contingency planning for deployment in crisis situations all year long.
“My concern is that someone will see someone armed and do something impulsive and dangerous,” he said. “I want to make sure that people know how to respond if something bad happens.”