Spectrum Pennock hosts active shooter training
Police sweep through the Spectrum Pennock Medical Arts building.
After nearly a year of organizing, communication and pre-trainings, Spectrum Health Pennock Hospital hosted an active shooter training the morning of Oct. 23.
The training involved 55 staff members, more than 40 Barry County first responders, 11 community volunteers and six mannequins, Spectrum Health Emergency Preparedness Specialist Doug DeVries said.
It was the largest active shooter training for both Spectrum Health and Barry County.
The teams conducted two similar exercises, both within the Medical Arts Building near the main hospital. Blank rounds were fired; calls went in to Barry County 911 Dispatch; and police moved in to clear the building, and ensure it was safe for fire and emergency medical personnel to come in and help the people inside.
Afterward, Spectrum staff had a debriefing, and an opportunity to work with the hospital's Critical Incident Stress Management team. Spectrum Health Pennock Chief Operating Officer Carla Wilson-Neil said the team gave the staff the support they might need after the stress of this type of training.
“It's the first time we all had a chance to work together; it was a great training program,” Hastings City Police Chief Jeff Pratt said. “I think each agency learned a lot, and found several ways that we can make improvements.”
Pratt said one of the biggest learning opportunities came from issues with communication.
“Communication needs to be better. We need to be able to understand the other agencies' language,” Pratt said.
He said police, firefighters and EMS personnel each have their own way of talking over radios, which can be an obstacle when fast and effective communication is a necessity.
“You can never be too prepared for something like this,” Pratt said.
Hastings Deputy Chief Dale Boulter said the training was especially useful to the newest members of the department.
“They got a feeling for what they can possibly expect,” Boulter said. “They got to see how confusing it gets. They got to see how communications fail. They got to see their heart rate go up.”
“It's a sign of the times, but kudos [to Spectrum Health] for realizing that this type of training is a necessity in today's world,” Boulter said.
“We haven't done anything this large,” Barry County Sheriff's Office Sergeant Rich Frazer said. “When we can get together and train more, it's only going to make these things run smoother.”
One of the most important aspects of the training was creating and strengthening relationships between departments.
“Once you build those relationships, they will always be there,” DeVries said. “A crisis is not the best time to be meeting somebody.”
Pratt said the trainings allow the departments to learn each other's resources and capabilities, so they can quickly dole out tasks.
Wilson-Neil said the different agencies were eager to work together on the training, to test their own systems and abilities.
She added that the hospital may have similar trainings in the future.
“There's always something you can learn from and improve upon,” Wilson-Neil said.