Multiple fire and police agencies worked together inside Burbank’s Bob Hope Airport terminal during an active shooter, mass casualty drill for three days this week, marking the first time such a training takes place.
Airport police and fire were joined by members of the Burbank Fire Dept., Burbank Police Dept., and emergency personnel from Glendale and Pasadena to simulate and prepare for a situation involving an armed suspect. A similar scene played out in real life at LAX in 2013 and resulted in the death of a TSA officer, and officials want to be prepared.
“The goal is to train in our own building, after hours, when no one is flying,” said Ed Skvarna, director of public safety at the airport and airport chief of police. “It gives [police and firefighters] the best real world scenario, they don’t have to pretend they are in the real world where something like this could happen.”
It helps officers prepare mentally, and working around the physical building and gaining knowledge of it is key, Skvarna said. Firefighters will have an active role in treating and rescuing people.
The goal is to be steps ahead, in case something happens, Skvarna said, adding: “We hope it doesn’t happen, but if it does happen, we are prepared.”
The “injured” will be comprised of volunteers who will be made to look like they have severed arteries or chest wounds. Some will be community college students, some will be reserve police officers and deputies, Skvarna said.
Because the scene will initially be a shooting scenario, police will be in charge, and once the shooter is neutralized, the command changes to fire, Skvarna said. Once the situation is resolved, cleanup is involved. The crime scene will need to be investigated, and then airport maintenance and operations would have to get the terminal ready to operate again as an airport.
Skvarna said airport police executed this same training last year and teams from the Burbank, Glendale and Los Angeles police departments participated in some of the scenarios. But airport police realized they needed fire personnel, as well as the other agencies involved.
“We needed other mutual aid partners involved, that would be the most realistic way to handle this type of situation,” Skvarna said. “If it’s real, that’s exactly what’s going to happen. Those people are going to show up, and they need to know what they are in for.”
Burbank Airport Police Officer John Dohle is one of two lead instructors for the training, along with Officer Rick Massa. Both men were formerly with the LAPD, and conducted trainings with the entire department on how to deal with an active shooter a number of times, Dohle said.
“It goes back to [the] Columbine [High School shooting] , although before and since then there have been active shooters,” Dohle said. “Since I work at the airport, I help train officers to be ready for an incident such as this.”
Dohle, too, mentioned the shooting at LAX.
“It can happen anywhere, in schools, now in theaters too. In workplaces,” he said.
One of the unique aspects of the training is that it will provide an opportunity for participants to practice what is called tactical medical, which is first aid along with the ability to seal chest wounds and administer tourniquets, officials said. The practice saves limbs and keeps someone from bleeding out.
Dohle said the practice has been used in at least one other theater shooting and did help to save some lives there.
With an active shooter, “there is no single agency that will handle that alone,” said Battalion Chief Jeff Howe, who is in charge of training for Burbank Fire. “The manpower is intensive, and fast forward to this drill.”
Police have to get the bad guy, and firefighters go in with “force protection,” meaning they are surrounded by police so they can go in and take care of those who are hurt, Howe said.
Firefighters will be going in for a quick triage, and then calling for a second team, Howe said. Victims are then treated and sent to the hospital, which requires an extensive amount of personnel.
“We want to make sure we are comfortable working together,” Howe said. “It is the perfect opportunity to bring everybody together.”
Howe pointed to the unique opportunity to train inside the terminal, in real time. He also said Burbank, Glendale and Pasadena work together often, and said it was the first time the tri-cities would take part in an active shooter training of this type.
“It’s probably the first of many,” Howe said.