Weekly training helping SAFD, SAPD prepare for mass casualty shooting

City working with peers in communities where shootings have occurred

SAN ANTONIO – The list of cities -- Aurora, Orlando, Las Vegas, Newtown, Columbine -- is long and notorious.

Should San Antonio ever land on the list of cities affected by a mass shooting, local first responders say they are ready.

What to do in an active shooter emergency

“We have learned through incidents in other cities that the only way to stop the bleeding and stop the dying is to have law enforcement provide force protection for our members to go in and triage, treat and quickly transport,” San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood said.

A cutting-edge multiagency program, the likes of which has never been made available to TV cameras crews, allows police officer and firefighters to train for the unimaginable.

The warnings are loud.

The responses are clear.

And in every simulation, the teamwork is undeniable.

Every week, a group of 100 police officers and firefighters come together for an intensive training.

Though it is simulated for active shooting scenarios, the training could easily be applied to many other mass casualty situations as well. In past two years, about 4,000 people have been involved in San Antonio’s new rescue task force training program.

With a watchful eye, Hood supervises the active shooter drills and said he finds pride in the multiagency harmony.

“The chief of Orlando is a very good friend of mine and I had a chance to tour that site (Pulse shooting) with him,” Hood said. “They were not prepared with ballistics, the relationship was not there with police and fire, so they are learning from us and we are learning from them.”

By the end of this year, the entire police force and 75 percent of the fire department will have been trained.

“Their job is to stop the killing,” Assistant Fire Chief Neal Ague said of the relationship they form with police. “Our job is to stop the dying.”

As project leader, Ague pointed out officers with guns and firefighters with ballistic gear.

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“They're introducing unarmed firefighters into, potentially, a very volatile situation,” he said. “They've done an amazing job of adjusting their tactics and the way they run the scene to incorporate us.”
While paramedics treated the injured, the teamwork continued.

“This isn't something that, in two years, I hope we're ready,” Ague said. “We're ready right now.”

About the Authors:

Courtney Friedman is a KSAT anchor and reporter. She has an ongoing series called Loving in Fear, confronting Bexar County’s domestic violence epidemic. She's also covered Hurricane Harvey, the shootings in Sutherland Springs and Santa Fe, and tornadoes throughout Texas. She’s a California native and proud Longhorn who loves calling SA home.