Emergency responders from Saline and nearby communities continue to train for school shooter scenarios. Personnel from the Saline Police Department and Saline Area Fire Department will train March 24 at Saline Middle School, Police Chief Jerrod Hart told Saline City Council Monday evening.
Hart was invited to speak on the subject by Mayor Brian Marl.
Hart told council that he and Fire Chief Craig Hoeft had already been in discussion about active shooter training before the recent tragedy in Parkland, Fla. Emergency responders are changing the way they handle active shooter situations. In 1999, at the school shooting in Columbine, the response was to secure the scene and wait for SWAT teams to show up, Hart said.
“We realized that was not the proper technique – that we need to go in, mitigate the threat as quickly as possible, running towards the threat or gunfire to save lives,” Hart said.
Having experienced more school shootings, the emergency responders continue to change their approach. Today’s emergency responders are training for “Rescue Task Force” response.
Police officers run to the threat, running past victims. A second wave of officers is joined by firefighters and other first responders to start treating victims.
Fire Chief Craig Hoeft spoke about this concept when the fire department purchased new bullet-proof vests and helmets specifically for these types of emergencies. Saline firefighters have already trained for this response with Pittsfield first responders at Saline High School.
Saline Police are joining Saline firefighters and their peers from nearby municipalities March 24 at Saline Middle School. Hart said there are five four-hour training sessions in Saline and other communities.
Whether it happens in Saline or a nearby community, local emergency responders are preparing for it as an eventuality.
“We may be called upon. Law enforcement is a team effort,” Hart said. “There are other agencies that have resources we don’t have and we want to be good area partners.”
Mayor Marl invited Hart to address council after he discussed public safety during a recent meeting with Pittsfield Township Supervisor Mandy Grewal.
“In particular we discussed making sure our schools were secure and safe places where our young people can learn free from violence or fear,” Marl said. “Spurred on by recent events in Florida and elsewhere, I feel it’s very important we be proactive in addressing this issue and that we redouble our efforts to engage with our partners at Saline Area Schools and other community stakeholders.”
Marl commended local emergency responders for being proactive.
Marl said Supervisor Grewal would be making similar comments to her board.
“We’ve both committed to address this matter. We are both blessed to house Saline Area Schools facilities in our jurisdictions,” Marl said. “We look forward to hearing more about ways we can work together to address these matters.”
Hart noted that Saline police officers are spending more time around school campuses and said they are getting out of their squad vehicles so they are noticed.
“They are a visible presence to act as a deterrent,” Hart said.
Hart told council that he met with the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Department training coordinator and told him the Saline Police Department is “open for business” when it comes to hosting training and partnering with other agencies. The sheriff’s department trains every Wednesday.
“So you will see an increase in our training with the sheriff’s department as well,” Hart said.
Councillor Heidi McClelland has children at the middle school and high school. She said she’s grateful for increased police visibility.
“I know you can’t guarantee safety, but (visibility) helps (her children’s) morale,” McClelland said.