Friday, February 22, 2019

Active-shooter exercise tests first responders, workforce, partners

Active-shooter exercise tests first responders, workforce, partners

Employees gather at a staging area after evacuating during an active-shooter exercise at DLA.

Photo by Rick Mussleman

A burst of “shots” ripped through the quiet corridor to echo on the terrazzo floor of Belvoir’s McNamara Headquarters Complex on the north end of the post. A smell like that of several lit matches wafted from the blanks fired by the DLA police officer.

Soon, a woman burst from a first-floor suite, waving a simulated handgun as she ran. She appeared to be pregnant. The woman ducked into a suite, shooting “victims” at their desks.

Seconds later, phones buzzed and rang as the building’s warning system sent calls and text messages to the workforce. A public address announcement prompted a mass exodus of people with hands held up, while intercoms blared alert tones.

Back in the suite, volunteer “victims” continued playing their roles. Some clutched lifelike gunshot wounds while yelling for help, gasping for air and calling out their ‘injuries.’

Outside, the gates to the complex closed, barricades went up and DLA Police officers stopped all traffic.

Seconds later, DLA Police officers burst through the suite’s door, their blue mock handguns drawn. They moved quickly through the cubicles and offices, clearing areas as they searched for the “shooter.”

They found her hiding under a desk just like so many victims—a self-inflicted gunshot wound helping her blend in.

The officers “shot” the attacker. Then they discovered the bulge in her torso wasn’t the pregnancy it appeared to be, but a vest filled with explosives, represented by PVC pipe.

This active shooter was also a suicide bomber.

The officers slowly retreated, and a few minutes later, technicians from the 55th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company arrived to defuse the bomb, all while the haunting cries of the victims continued to fill the suite.

The active-shooter scenario at DLA followed a mock chemical leak near Specker Field House, where Belvoir Hospital and emergency personnel tended to more “wounded” and “sick.”

The drill on Belvoir was part of Military District of Washington’s annual Capital Shield exercise and happened during National Preparedness Month.

The exercise serves as a training platform for emergency response staff personnel and first responders, which are important for ongoing community safety and strengthens partnerships and working relationships.

Joining the DLA Police and 55th EOD were officers from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency headquarters, and firefighters from Fort Belvoir Fire and Emergency Services. In addition, numerous volunteers, personnel from Belvoir Community Hospital, Fairfax County Police Department and Belvoir Garrison emergency staff contributed to the exercise, said James Johnston, DLA’s antiterrorism officer, who led the exercise’s planning and execution.

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