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Active shooter training planned Sept. 28 in Worthington

Law enforcement, fire departments, dispatchers, ambulance service and Minnesota West public safety students to gather at the Nobles County Fairgrounds to conduct training exercise.

WORTHINGTON — It's merely a coincidence that Wednesday night’s threat of a school shooting in District 518 came little more than a week before multiple emergency response agencies will gather to carry out an active shooter simulation.

The Sept. 28 event, planned on the Nobles County Fairgrounds in Worthington, is coordinated by Preferred Response and funded by the 2018 Minnesota Homeland Security grant program.

The training will bring law enforcement and fire departments together to work on communication and response efforts. Taking part will be the Nobles County Sheriff’s Office, Worthington Police Department, dispatchers, all fire departments within the county, ambulance and Minnesota West students enrolled in the public safety curriculum, according to Nobles County Administrator Tom Johnson, who is also serving as the county’s interim emergency management director.

The training will begin at 9 a.m. Sept. 28 with class training and discussion, with the active shooter drill to begin about mid-day. Following the exercise, there will be a debriefing to discuss how the response went and what could or should be done differently.

Paul Van Voorhis of Preferred Response is coordinating the event. He said pre-planning for an active shooter event is important to give responders an idea of what to expect, but to also bring different agencies together to understand their strengths.

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“We know law enforcement is going to respond initially,” he said. “Anything of a magnitude of a call like that is going to involve multiple disciplines. Fire departments have quite a bit of staffing and resources. We want to use them wisely.”

Van Voorhis said based on national studies, it’s proven that if responders can get gunshot victims from the scene to the emergency room within 30 minutes, their chance for survival dramatically increases.

The key is to identify the scene as a hot zone — meaning the shooter is still onsite and active — or a warm zone, where the shooter has left the scene or is barricaded in a specific area, and react accordingly.

“If the subject has left the scene, is subdued or barricaded, we want to get to those individuals who can’t help themselves,” Van Voorhis said. “We don’t send fire departments in where there’s active gunfire, but if we can use fire(fighters) to get in immediately to rescue those victims, we know the survivability increases drastically.”

Nobles County was one of six counties awarded a grant to complete the training. Renville County was the first to host the training, and Nobles is next in line. The other grant recipients include McLeod, Chippewa, Sibley and Lincoln counties, Van Voorhis said.

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