RUMFORD — Close to 50 first responders participated in a simulated active-shooting exercise Thursday.

The scene was Mountain Valley High School, which is closed this week for school vacation.

“It’s important for us to train and work together so that if we have an actual event, there’s some sense that we know what we’re doing,” Rumford Police Chief Stacy Carter said. “Today, we’re reaching across the spectrum of public safety.” 

Teresa Glick, deputy director of Oxford County Emergency Management Agency, said, “Our schools have a plan. We’ve done active-shooter training. We’ve done lockdowns. What are we going to do outside that school and how’s that plan look?”

She added, “We’ve been working really hard over the last six months to create that plan of everything that’s outside. That’s what we’re practicing today. I know we’re doing tactics, we’re doing some stuff with the hospital, but that’s not the main focus of what we’re doing. It’s really this command piece and how are we matching up with what’s happening here to that command post outside?” 

Mexico Police Chief Roy Hodsdon said five people from the Police Explorer program played the roles of students in the building, two of whom were shooting victims.

Carter said law enforcement was tasked with stopping two shooters in the school.

Prior to the start of the exercise, officers were searched to make sure they no longer were carrying their duty material. Instead, they were issued “simunition” pistols and rifles, which shoot blue paintballs. They also were given protective masks in case they got shot in the face.

Those shot with paintballs had to self-evaluate the severity of their “wounds,” marked by the blue paint.

And for those responding to the scene with cruisers, all ammo was stripped out of them, as well. Safety officers, outside and inside, were the only ones with live ammo.

First responders followed rules for a Code 1 response and used no lights and sirens. Not all responded at the same time; responders were instead called in groups. The school and the command post were secured and closed off from the public during the exercise.

Staging was at the Hosmer Field tennis courts, with the command post at the Hosmer Field rink.

The exercise got underway after 10:30 a.m., with a break for lunch, then continued until around 2:15 p.m., finishing with evaluations by several observers.

Carter said, “It’s been a long time since we’ve done an active-shooter drill in the community. I think the last one was a few years ago at the hospital.”

A discussion-based, table-top exercise was conducted in February that gave participants the opportunity to discuss how they would coordinate a response to an active-shooter incident and integrate into off-site Incident Command.

“The first responders felt it was not only important to train on how to respond to an active shooter event inside the school but to also focus on how to coordinate resources and response from outside the school,” Glick said. “A strong Incident Command System is critical for managing an incident of this scale.”

Taking part in the training were Rumford, Mexico and Dixfield police departments, Oxford County Sheriff’s Office, Maine State Police, Rumford and Mexico fire departments, Med-Care Ambulance, Rumford Hospital, Central Maine Regional Resource Center, Oxford County Incident Management Assistance Team and the Oxford County Regional Communications Center.

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