Mashpee police and first responders from multiple agencies responded to reports of “active shooter, multiple people shot” and “multiple hostages” at Mashpee Middle-High School on Wednesday, August 21, in an elaborate training drill.
Police, with weapons drawn and wearing bulletproof vests, moved throughout the school grounds as volunteers playing victims with varying degrees of injury were rescued by first responders.
The perpetrator, played by Lucas Calhoun, a professional actor, was holed up in the library with hostages.
“The object of this was to put as much stress as we can on these professionals, so they can mimic as best as possible the real-life incident,” Mr. Calhoun said of his role.
As a hostage negotiator dealt with Mr. Calhoun and worked to assess the hostage situation, police set up a safe area around the back of the school to rescue civilians and those victims who had been wounded.
Volunteers, including school staff, students from Mashpee Public Schools and other community members, improvised in their role as victims, based on injuries assigned as part of the drill.
Some wore plastic Moulage Training kits, which depicted external wounds and wore paper tags that described their physical state to first responders. About 100 volunteers participated.
“Unconscious/unresponsive,” read a tag worn by volunteer Jamie Amaral.
“Bruises over torso and extremities,” the tag said, describing the victim’s heart rate as at 120 beats per minute and her “skin warm” and “color cyanotic.”
Escorted by officers with weapons raised, victims were dragged from the school and carried across the lawn to ambulances.
“I feel honored to be part of this process,” Ms. Amaral said.
“It’s very eye-opening to the situation,” she said of the drill. “It’s the only way they really learn.”
Two SWAT teams—the Upper Cape Cod Special Response Team and the Cape Cod Law Enforcement Council SWAT Team—participated in the drill, skirting the edge of the school building in tactical gear with weapons drawn.
The Department of Homeland Security, Massachusetts State Police, Barnstable County Sheriff’s Department, and first responders from local municipalities also participated.
The drill, which was set in motion around 10 AM and ran a little less than two hours, was coordinated and planned over the course of several months by Mashpee Police Chief Scott Carline.
Responding personnel were not briefed on the details of the scenario before the drill, he said, leaving them to respond to the unfolding situation in real time.
“The days of ‘That doesn’t happen here’—those days are over,” Chief Carline said, “It’s the world we live in; the unthinkable can happen anywhere.”
To coordinate the response between the multiple responding agencies, a command post was set up off a small gravel driveway around the back of the school, not far from the baseball field.
“From there we start staging our resources,” Chief Carline said. “We give the orders to put them in place whenever they are needed.”
The police chief said that the victim rescue scenario was rehearsed twice while the hostage negotiation scenario was rehearsed once.
In the first round of rescues, injured and unconscious victims were carried across a small field to ambulances, which were situated near the command post. In the second round, ambulances backed right up to the school.
“The more we train, the better we get,” Chief Carline said.
At one point in the drill, responding officers dressed in tactical gear rolled a remote-controlled robot into the school before entering the building.
“You can watch it on TV, you can hear about it, but to be a part of it is definitely a totally different scenario,” said Melissa Lucas, a volunteer who participated in the drill with her son.
“It was good, as a mom, to be here and see how all the police and all the paramedics and everybody—even the staff—responded,” she said.
Ms. Lucas’s son, Richard, a 10th-grader in Mashpee Public Schools, said after the drill, “I think it’s good for the students, definitely, so they can see what would happen.”
Hunter Tobey, also a 10th-grader, said, “I feel like it was a very necessary process to go through to see how your body would react under the stresses and strains of the active shooter.”
Police Chief Carline said that the drill went well.
“I was very encouraged by the response, and I was very encouraged by the teamwork,” he said.
The drill gave police and first responders a chance to recognize areas of response that could use improvement, he said. “There were communication issues we could have improved on,” Chief Carline said.
“It really was an amazing experience for everyone who participated,” said Superintendent of Mashpee Public Schools Patricia DeBoer, who participated in the drill.
“I’m super grateful to Detective Brett Calhoun and Chief Carline and even Chief Rullo on the fire side, to really plan this to just make Mashpee safer,” she said.
Chief Carline praised the “outstanding working relationship we have with our fellow first responders.”
He said he hopes to stage similar drills in the future.