Flashing lights, sirens and emergency vehicles disrupted the sylvan serenity of the Bend campus of Central Oregon Community College on Friday morning.
The excitement was part of a training exercise in which Deschutes County first responders practiced what to do when an active shooter is reported on campus.
Participating agencies included the police and fire departments from Bend, Redmond, Sunriver and Sisters, as well as the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office. Air ambulances also participated in the drill.
The drill began at around 9 a.m. when Bend Police received a report of an active shooter on the COCC campus. For the next two hours, the agencies collaborated to identify and contain the suspect and respond to medical and safety needs.
The exercise required around 300 people, including role-playing citizen volunteers, according to Dan Derlacki, Deputy Fire Marshal at the Bend Fire Department.
Most participants were unaware of the scenario’s specifics in order to properly test the response, Derlacki said.
“They don’t know where it is or what’s going on,” he said before the drill began on Friday morning, indicating that the agencies were training to collaborate effectively. “You have multiple resources in the community, use them.”
About 65 of those who participated in the scenario weren’t law enforcement, but students who volunteered to play roles in the training.
Markayla Conn and Tressa Green, both 16 and juniors at Mountain View High School, role-played as students in the campus classroom where the scenario’s shooter entered. Both of them took a criminal justice class at Mountain View last year and volunteered to participate.
Markayla and Tressa knew they would be involved in the scenario, but they didn’t know what the scenario would entail.
They said that someone playing the shooter entered the classroom where they were sitting and shot the person who was playing the instructor.
“It kind of makes you open your eyes to what could happen,” said Tressa.
Antonio Cornelio, 21, of Prineville, also participated in the scenario. He was also playing the role of a witness to a shooting incident and was evacuated from the building by law enforcement as part of the scenario.
Cornelio just graduated with an associate degree in criminal justice from COCC and plans to work in law enforcement after pursuing a bachelor’s degree at OSU-Cascades. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” Cornelio said.
Renee Larson, 26, also graduated from the COCC criminal justice program and eventually wants to work for Oregon State Police Dispatch. She’s participated in several practice scenarios before.
“It’s the best adrenaline rush anybody can ask for,” said Larson. “I’ve learned a lot from these (drills).”
And while the adrenaline rush is real, so are the emotions. “These can be impactful,” said Derlacki of the drills, which he said law enforcement aims to make as realistic as possible. A chaplain was on the campus Friday in case participants wanted to review or discuss the drill after the fact.
While the fire department is responsible for “patient care,” the police department handles the “tactical response,” said Derlacki.
The effort took about three months and 12 separate planning sessions, said Bend Police Lt. Nick Parker.
In the past, the department has practiced tabletop scenarios and a few years ago staged a shooting drill at Ridgeview High School in Redmond, said Parker. The agencies organized the training together to meet growing concern about how to address a large-scale emergency. “We need to be prepared for emergency-type situations,” Parker said.
“We haven’t even done fire drills,” said COCC spokesman Ron Paradis. “It helps us kind of solidify our relationship with law enforcement.”
COCC has unarmed public safety officers who also participated in the drill, Paradis said. Because they were unarmed, once the police and fire departments arrived to address the situation, the public safety officers secured the campus perimeter.
Although there have been no serious incidents on any of COCC’s campuses, the community college has dealt with scares before.
A few years ago, there was report of a shooter on the Redmond campus. The report turned out to be an effort to distract from a robbery elsewhere, said Paradis.
About five years ago, someone attempted to rob the gas station at the foot of Awbrey Butte near the Bend campus and the campus went on lockdown, according to Paradis.
The agencies debriefed about the scenario Friday afternoon and will hold a more comprehensive debriefing in about a month, Parker said.
— Reporter: 541-383-0376, firstname.lastname@example.org