Photo by Bill Helm.
CAMP VERDE – To protect and serve.
That’s what first responders do.
However, many people don’t realize that to protect the public, firefighters, police officers and EMTs must also be able to protect themselves.
Tuesday, the Yavapai-Apache Police Department led a Camp Verde-wide emergency preparedness training at Cliff Castle Casino Hotel where the end result was to subdue an active shooter while limiting the amount of injuries.
The purpose of the training was three-fold, Yavapai-Apache Police Sergeant and training lead Levi Presmyk said.
Presmyk said that officers were to gain experience in an active shooter/terrorist-style attack; learn to communicate with casino surveillance and learn to as “safely-as-possible” approach the most extreme of circumstances; and for local police and fire departments to learn to work together to “provide lifesaving aid as quickly as possible in multi-victim situations to prevent needless loss of life.”
Presmyk said that all three goals were met, and that strengths and weaknesses were identified “which will lead to further training to address issues and make both law enforcement as well as fire and EMS response much more efficient in the future.”
Her last words were “I loved you.”
The mock scenario, a bartender at the casino’s Cliff Dwellers Bar, serving drinks one morning when her former significant other comes in to argue with her.
After several moments of heated argument, the man pulls out a gun and shoots the woman and at least one other person at the bar.
“Help!” a woman cries out. “We need help!” Then officers race up to the casino, enter the building at the front, and finally shoot the assailant.
In about an hour, seven law enforcement teams from the Yavapai-Apache and Camp Verde police departments enter the casino, respond to shooting, and stop the gunman.
The second hour of the two-hour training was an opportunity for Copper Canyon fire fighters and emergency medical responders to conduct evacuations and to assess injuries – also known as triage.
Emergency preparedness partners
“Overall, we were extremely pleased with the training,” Camp Verde Marshal Corey Rowley said Wednesday. “Not just for the target points me but the ability to identify what we need to work on.”
For Rowley, the purpose of the training was “not to be flawless,” but “more importantly to identify those areas where we could improve.”
“This is a huge first step in working with multiple agencies to ensure each understands their roll and the ability to adapt quickly as things change rapidly,” Rowley said.
Copper Canyon Fire Chief Terry Keller said that the training afforded his department the opportunity to “identify the predictable and the unpredictable.”
Keller also said that it was “extraordinary” that Cliff Castle Casino “closed down to let us train here.”
“It’s a big facility,” Keller said. “It takes a lot of people to do this.”
An effective working relationship between local law and fire departments, as well as casino security and casino surveillance “will be critical should we ever face this kind of situation for real,” Presmyk said.
“Being able to educate civilian casino employees and allow them to participate also gives them a better idea as to how and why first responders will respond in the manner that we do, and the dangers that are associated with a situation like this.”