NDPD conducts active shooter training exercise

Active Shooter Training 7

The Notre Dame Police Department recently held an active shooter training drill at St. Michael’s Laundry on the north side of campus. The laundry facility, 33,669 square feet in total with the back “work” area encompassing 22,535 square feet, provided a substantial space for the exercise.

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Capt. Combs checks officers gear prior to the start of the training session.(Photo by Natalie Davis Miller/University of Notre Dame)

St. Michael’s Laundry employees also participated in the drill, playing the roles of fleeing workers and injured victims wearing colored tags indicating the level and seriousness of their injuries. NDPD was supported by the Notre Dame Fire Department and University Operations.

An NDPD drone was also in the air, recording the drill and further simulating a real-world scenario.

NDPD regularly conducts active violence training, according to Keri Kei Shibata, assistant vice president for campus safety and chief of police. She noted that both NDPD and NDFD went through foundational training leading up to the live-action scenario. Additionally, both online and in-person training were provided to the campus community over the past year.

“It’s vitally important that officers, firefighters, medics, dispatchers and the community know how to respond to these types of incidents,” Shibata said.

Precautionary measures were taken in preparation for the drill, including conducting the training during fall break while fewer students and employees were on campus, notifying the campus of the training through various channels and prominently displaying signage around the training area, as well as checking all vehicles for admission to the area. For those following radio traffic, it was made clear repeatedly that a training exercise was in progress. Non-participants in the drill were given yellow safety vests.

Vice President for Campus Safety and University Operations Mike Seamon was also on hand for the training. “NDPD and NDFD are always routinely training, and holding an active violence/shooter training session provided them with a real-life scenario that will help them sharpen their skills and techniques as a unified team responding to an incident,” Seamon said.

Capt. Scott Combs supervised the training exercise, emphasizing safety measures to be taken. All weapons were secured and officers were given blue or red guns — inert firearm replicas to use during the drill. Combs issued instructions for the beginning of the training.

“As soon as you guys go in, it’s all going to be radio traffic. This entire exercise is going to be officer driven. There is no script, other than my victims inside. They are scripted to do certain things,” Combs explained. “Everything we are doing moving forward is going to be based on the training and the information you guys get over the radio, so moving forward from there we have just a few moments. Make sure you don’t lose track of time.”

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Officers search the area for a suspect. (Photo by Natalie Davis Miller/University of Notre Dame)

While the laundry machines in the work area were not running, a speaker played the background sounds officers might encounter in that space. Officers moved through the front of the building to the back area, including a dock. The “suspect” was eventually located and apprehended by officers.

During the walk-through after the exercise, officers and observers gathered outside St. Michael’s, where Combs recounted the scene for those who had been in different parts of the exterior and interior of the building during the exercise. The scene he described unfolded as expected, with victims down, survivors running and screaming.

“There’s a lot for these officers to go through and process as they come in,” Combs said.

He described the interior of the back work space as a labyrinth, with changing throughways that can be reconfigured from day to day, as needed. “For some of us officers that have gone through these buildings time and time again, and know the insides and out, this is one of those unique buildings that might change overnight. That’s something to take into consideration,” Combs said.

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Officers search the area for a suspect. (Photo by Natalie Davis Miller/University of Notre Dame)

After the review, Combs reminded law enforcement officers to go “duty ready” again — checking mics, radios, etc., ensuring that everything was good to go before hitting the streets.

“There was definitely a healthy intensity in the air among the first responders as they progressed through the scenario,” Seamon said. “I was impressed to see their steadiness and how they were laser-focused in responding as a group to the situation.”

Shibata was equally impressed. “I was very pleased by the way everyone responded to the training,” she said. “There were some things that we learned, but overall, it reinforced my confidence that we are prepared in the event that something like this happens on campus.”

For NDPD, next steps include more training — including tabletop exercises in the classroom and scenario training, which might include surrounding agencies with which they collaborate and train. “We work throughout the year to ensure that we are ready to handle any situation that comes our way,” Shibata said.

“Safety is our top priority on campus, and it is reassuring to know that the men and women of NDPD and NDFD take that responsibility very seriously and are always trying to improve and ready themselves to help ensure a safe environment for all of our students, faculty, staff and visitors,” Seamon said.