Hayden Local law enforcement officials spent last week getting intimately familiar with one Routt County school.
Usually, a school district superintendent would be nervous if cops dressed in tactical gear were swarming their middle and high schools, but Hayden's Mike Luppes was very pleased. That's because the law enforcement officers were getting to know the layout of his school and training for scenarios they never hope to encounter but need to be prepared for.
"The last couple of years, they've been talking about doing something like this, and we said, 'Go for it,'" Luppes said.
Steamboat Springs Police Sgt. Jeff Wilson was one of the four local cops helping put on the training, which more than 40 sworn officers from Routt County participated in. Many of the officers met one another for the first time. About 35 people volunteered to play the roles of victims and perpetrators.
"If there is a mass event, ultimately, there are going to be people from multiple agencies responding," Wilson said. "It's as realistic as we can get."
Scenarios were staged in the classrooms, cafeteria and hallways throughout the school. In the dark auditorium, Routt County Sheriff's Office Deputy JD Paul supervised as officers stormed in and took down an active shooter. They then went through what it would be like to deal with 300 victims, witnesses and potential suspects. Those participating were splattered with pink paint, which signified they had been shot with the plastic bullets shot from guns used just for training.
"The guns that we use cycle and fire just like our duty rounds," Wilson said.
In a nearby classroom with the door barricaded with desks, officers practiced dealing with a person who had been taken hostage. It was one of the scenarios used to help teach officers that not all the scenarios need to involve shots being fired.
Steamboat Springs officer Kristin Bantle, a certified negotiator who has been called out 10 times in her career to facilitate negotiations, was able to help convince the shooter to put down the gun.
"I'm able to talk to people and would much rather talk to people than go hands on," Bantle said.
Officers attended the training either Monday, Wednesday or Friday. At the end of each day, the officers practiced a large-scale incident involving multiple shooters inside the school. West Routt Fire Protection District firefighters participated and helped evacuate victims.
On Wednesday, Classic Lifeguard, the new air ambulance based out of Steamboat, flew over and landed on the football field, where officers had established a landing zone and set off smoke bombs.
"What I really like about this is all the different agencies working together," Steamboat Detective Josh Carrell said. "The mutual aid is essential."
To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland
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