Violent Intruder Training Drill
Story and photos by Monique Musick
Violent Intruder Drill, November 13, 2009
On the afternoon of Friday November 13, the usually quiet halls of the Butrovich statewide administration building rang with the sound of gunfire. Airport police officer Mike Suter, acting the part of an active shooter, fired three rounds from an assault rifle at approximately 2:25 PM, officially setting off an exercise involving law enforcement from the University Police Department, Alaska State Troopers, Fairbanks Airport police, Fairbanks and North Pole cops, and the employees of the Butrovich building. The simulation drill was designed by an organization called Active Shooter Training to provide real world experience to law enforcement, emergency medical personnel and building occupants.
After firing the initial shots just outside suite 103, Suter made his way up the west staircase to the UA President’s office leaving a wake of volunteer “victims” behind him. Once in the office he fired another twenty-some shots killing or wounding staff and volunteers before taking his own life in the back conference room. In all, nearly thirty blank rounds were fired from his assault rifle. It was not an air gun or other prop, these were real rounds, albeit blanks, fired from a real gun. To those standing nearby the shots were loud and clear, but due to soundproofing in the building many, perhaps even most, of the building occupants never heard a single shot.
As the first group of police entered the building a group of volunteers ran down the stairs screaming, “He has a gun” and pointing up towards the President’s suite. Their shouts both helped lead officers to the location of the shooter and provided a bit of distraction, and an adrenaline rush, for them. Ideally it also served as a warning to building occupants that an intruder was in the building. Cautiously, with guns drawn, the officers walked over victims of the violence until they found the shooter. He was dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, a part of the plan designed to spare the suite damage from the practice rounds the responding officers were armed with. They set up the Incident Command post next to the shooter’s body and called in their backup.
The subsequent two teams of law enforcement entered the building and searched offices and meeting rooms for signs of additional intruders, surveyed the dead and wounded, and sought out survivors. They interviewed survivors for information. They secured the building and escorted medical teams as they removed the wounded. The drill took approximately forty minutes.
During this time Cameron Carlson, Rick Forkel and Randy Pommenville of the Office of Risk Services, along with Chief McGee, walked through the building evaluating the response by employees. They critiqued hiding places and asked employees what they would have done had the situation been real. Outside, Julie Baecker, Chief Risk Officer, watched the employees who were able to evacuate over to the museum. She noted the care they took to remain behind walls, vehicles or other objects to keep them sheltered from open sight.
After Action Review
Following the conclusion of the drill, after employees came out from hiding or returned to the building and police officers returned to their stations, Chief McGee met once more with Butrovich employees for an after action review session. Cameron Carlson, Rick Forkel and Mike Suter, the “shooter”, joined the chief as he debriefed the assembled crowd.
They began with a chronological overview of what happened during the drill. Carlson surveyed the crowd to see how many evacuated and how many sheltered in place. A number had remained in the building, most of whom were not discovered when the risk management personnel did their walk through. A good number of those in hiding stayed in hiding until well after the conclusion of the drill. They were not certain that the “all clear” announcements were real or an effort by the intruder to lure them from the safety of their hiding places. Chief McGee said that the employeees did a fantastic job applying what they learned in training to this scenario.
Some departments used their phones to inform co-workers in other parts of the building that the drill was underway. Others barely knew the exercise had begun. The exercise highlighted some needs in alert systems and internal communications but also showed how intra- and inter- department communication can be a lifesaver under such conditions. The process of sharing reactions and experiences is an important learning and evaluation tool and one that helped make this drill such a big success.