Photo Gallery: 'Active Shooter' training
Video: Sheriff's Department staged active shooter training scenarios at Rancho Cucamonga HS
RANCHO CUCAMONGA - Deputies and school police officers wearing body armor and carrying rifles and firearms made their way toward a school.
They were training for dealing with an armed person on campus.
It was just one of the scenarios that San Bernardino County sheriff's deputies and other first responders went through Friday at Rancho Cucamonga High School.
The training continues today. The training events are part of regularly scheduled exercises planned well before the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings on Dec. 14 in Connecticut, authorities said, but the sessions took on an increased significance in the wake of the shootings that left 27 people dead, including the shooter.
"Just like the military, we train as we fight," said Deputy Anthony Thomas, a school resource officer. "If we don't make it as realistic as possible, we could fail, and failure is not an option."
Lorena Garcia, who has four children in Cucamonga School District, was happy to hear about the training.
"It really does make me feel safer to know that they train like this on a regular basis," said Garcia, an Alta Loma resident. "As a matter of fact, I think it would be a good idea if school personnel were trained as well."
While Garcia is still wrestles with the idea of having an armed teacher on campus, she feels a designated armed school employee at the entrance of the schools would make her feel more at ease.
To make Friday's exercises as realistic as possible, students volunteered to play victims as well as shooters while deputies and fire personnel executed their responsibilities as first responders.
Organizers created a high-stress and realistic situation as part of the training exercises, complete with simulated explosives, blaring sirens and screaming students.
"Before Columbine we never trained like this," Sgt. Mike Kleczko said about the 1999 Colorado shooting in which 12 students and one teacher were killed by two students. "We would wait for reinforcements before going into a live shooting activity."
Since the shooting at Columbine High School, deputies train regularly to finely tune their skills in case the real thing happens, Kleczko added.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department has been involved in training scenarios this week as well.
First responders from various agencies in association with California Highway Patrol officers and Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies conducted the drills at Cal State Northridge.
Students and faculty members from the school's National Center on Deafness took part in the drills by acting as victims being terrorized by a mock shooter in a series of 15-minute exercises on Thursday
The exercises were designed to help the agencies work together during emergencies.
The San Bernardino City Unified School District also regularly holds training scenarios to help keep the district's Police Department ready for all situations, Superintendent Dale Marsden said.
"We have one of the most comprehensive and well-trained school police forces in the state," he said.
He added that in the face of budgetary shortfalls, the County Budgetary Advisory Board has made it a point to fill all school officer vacancies.
"This is so we can have the appropriate resources in place in order to keep our children safe," Marsden said.
San Bernardino parents also have the added comfort of knowing several firefighters who are paramedics have been trained as SWAT members and work hand-in-hand with San Bernardino police officers.
"They go through all the training and become peace officers," Deputy Fire Chief Paul Drasil said.
"Essentially, they become like a reserve officer and they are in fact a part of the SWAT team."
Having paramedics as part of the SWAT team means they can care for victims or team members immediately instead of having to wait for SWAT members to clear a location and make sure all's clear.
"The advantage is they are there right as the incident is happening and they initiate care immediately," Drasil said.
"In this instance that medic in within a few feet. It's a huge advantage for the officers to have them right there with them. They can at least begin triage, especially in an active-shooter situation where there may be multiple victims."
Portions of Friday's dynamic scenarios at Rancho Cucamonga High had deputies trying to track down a gunman before more victims were wounded or killed.
"We actively train so deputies and firemen are in the same mindset when it comes to active shooter incidents," Kleczko said.
"We want to engage and isolate the threat to ensure that there is little to no loss of innocent life."
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