Coast Guard Academy holds its first active shooter exercise
The Day, New London, Conn.
NEW LONDON, Conn. — For the first time on Tuesday, the Coast Guard and local law enforcement agencies practiced how they would respond to a shooting on the Coast Guard Academy grounds.
Many who took part said it was important to hold this type of drill at the academy because of the recent shootings at military installations and schools.
The mass notification system that was used to alert everyone at the academy about the lockdown during the drill was installed after the shooting at Virginia Tech in 2007.
The system was tested shortly before 20 children and six adults were killed inside the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown in December.
Last month, a gunman killed 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard, and last week, two people were shot and wounded at an armory outside a Navy facility in Tennessee.
"Certainly as secure as this base is, these events could unfold here," said Coast Guard Cmdr. Rob Oatman, who directed the exercise and serves as the academy's chief of information services.
New London Fire Chief Henry E. Kydd Jr. said these drills should be done more often, "with the way things are going on in our world."
"This is going to be more commonplace," he said, referring to potential for future incidents.
Shortly after 9 a.m., there was a "report" of a possible active shooter at the academy. Many of the first responders knew the scenario would start with a shooter in an auditorium in Dimick Hall where a lecture was being held with 16 cadets and a faculty member.
But because so many agencies agreed to participate, Oatman said a second shooter was added inside Smith Hall, an academic building that connects to Dimick Hall, to make the drill more complex. The first responders were not briefed on that.
About 80 people from 30 agencies converged on the campus, including police and fire personnel from New London, police officers from Norwich, Stonington, Enfield and Vernon and members of the FBI, Connecticut State Police, Office of the Chief State's Attorney, Connecticut Air National Guard and several Coast Guard units.
An announcement was broadcast over the notification system that "an emergency condition has been reported" and lockdown procedures should be followed. Everyone on campus was instructed to find a secure location, turn off the lights and avoid windows and doors.
Cadets ran out of the two buildings while teams of law enforcement officers carrying replica guns ran in. They pursued both of the shooters, who were volunteers from the Law Enforcement Council of Connecticut, through Smith Hall.
The participants spoke to each other over handheld radios and tried to keep track of which teams were where, which rooms had been cleared and how many people were injured or killed. Medical personnel set up a triage area to treat the victims.
Oatman said there were a lot of successes and failures throughout the drill, which ended at about 10:30 a.m. He said he expected some communications issues since the agencies do not all use the same radio system. The academy also will have to figure out the best way to effectively manage all of the different mutual aid groups when they rush in to help, Oatman said.
Connecticut State Police Master Sgt. Jim Gilman, one of the officers who entered the buildings, also said the biggest setback was communications but that overall the exercise was a good training experience and the agencies worked well together.