Getting coordinated amid chaos is goal of NEJC active shooter training at Indian Hills

Police officers escorted fire fighters as they carried a wounded victim out of the building in the active shooter simulation.
Police officers escorted fire fighters as they carried a wounded victim out of the building in the active shooter simulation.

The first officer burst through the Indian Hills front doors with his gun pulled.

Deafening music blared through the hallways, making an already chaotic environment even more unsettling. A hysterical student screamed to the officer’s right. As he scanned the hallway, the sound of two gunshots rang out. He turned, trying to zero in on them, but the location was difficult to pinpoint. It was so loud and disorienting, it was hard to think.

Simulating the unreal disorder of a school shooting situation was the goal of a two-day training held at Indian Hills Middle School over the Spring Break week. With students out of the building, local law enforcement agencies worked with the school district to stage the annual training that has grown and grown over eight years.

Since starting with a few northeast Johnson County law enforcement agencies, the program has grown to include every northeast Johnson police department plus the Shawnee Mission School District’s safety officers and Consolidated Fire Department No. 2.

Last Wednesday and Thursday they worked in teams with paint guns drawn as they searched the building for active shooters in a series of simulations using role players, most students from the local high schools’ theatre departments, to act out different parts. In one, a group of three officers turned a corner in the Indian Hills lower level to find a student pointing a gun at them. Another student dragged a hostage into a nearby classroom as the officers took the first student down.

The goal of acting out these terrifying scenarios, said Roeland Park training officer Cory Honas, is to ensure that officers from every department understand the same tactics and protocols.

“If an unfortunate situation did occur, you’d have multiple agencies responding from all over the place,” said Honas, who has been part of the program since its inception. “We’re going to be each other’s backing officers. The important thing is that we train together because we’re going to be working together.”

This year, for the first time ever, fire fighters from Consolidated Fire District No. 2 participated in the training as well, sweeping in after police had cordoned off the shooters to treat victims. After each scenario, the officers got together for a debriefing, going over how the response could have been improved.

“As the years have gone on, we’re starting to become more and more sound,” Honas said. “The officers get more confident and better at working together.”

An officer reached out to a screaming student during one of the scenarios.
An officer reached out to a screaming student during one of the scenarios.
The officers debriefed in the Indian Hills library after a scenario.
The officers debriefed in the Indian Hills library after a scenario.