In an increasing partnership between the Beverly Hills Unified School District (BHUSD) and the city, first responders conducted emergency safety drills at Hawthorne Elementary School on Aug. 12. The Courier was on the scene as officers from the Beverly Hills Police Department (BHPD) and the Beverly Hills Fire Department (BHFD) practiced advanced tactical drills, provided on-scene medical treatment for victims, and simulated discharge of weapons in active shooter scenarios. The training exercise provides a review of on-campus protocols, and police and fire department response during a major emergency. In addition, 10 students who are in the BHPD Explorers program, which is designed to give youths hands-on experience with the department, participated as civilian role players. The training involved four active shooter scenarios, with a suspect in each.
“I can’t thank you enough for this because it’s a good test of God forbid, if it happens, a test of our capabilities, fire department, and also civilians,” BHPD’s Lieutenant Robert Maycott told participants.
BHPD Chief Mark Stainbrook stressed the importance of the drill, highlighted the coordination involved, and acknowledged the classroom and individual training that took place leading up to this exercise, adding “every year we should be doing this before the school year starts.”
“We’re going to do everything to be as safe as possible,” Stainbrook added. “Everybody’s a safety officer. So, real world scenario, it’s not sanitized in there and there’s stuff on the floor.”
To ensure everyone’s wellbeing, those labeled “observers” wore neon yellow safety vests indicating they were not to be shot at. In the exercise, police officers used Simunition rounds, training ammunition made of bright pink or blue wax bullets.
“They are marking cartridges; they’re fired out of real weapons with different barrels,” Lieutenant Maycott said. “There’s no way to put a real round in those.” In the designated training area, no other weapons, including handguns, knives, or sharp objects, were permitted inside the scenario. Maycott advised everyone to keep their “head on a swivel” and reviewed verbal commands such as the “range is hot,” meaning the scenario is live and they may handle firearms, and “index” meaning the exercise is over and everyone must stop. Emergency personnel were instructed to work diligently, talk on the radio like they normally would and communicate back to dispatch. A combination of emergency personnel and officers comprised a Rescue Task Force, led by firefighters who are the first to go inside, extricate any victims and asses the triage.
The drills were held inside, with two other contact teams on deck at any time, and officers downloading information at the SWAT car and getting a visual look downrange. Inside, a student role player ran down a dark hallway asking, “is my friend okay” and was directed to safety while two medics lifted another role player nearby into a body bag.
According to BHPD Spokesperson, Lieutenant Giovanni Trejo, private security through Nastec International, Inc. is used in a scenario like this to assist by patrolling each entry point at the school. Doing so allows emergency personnel and police officers to respond to the situation without having to also secure the perimeter.
“It’s so important to let everybody see the inside of a school and see what it would look like in an event like one of these situations, God forbid,” Stainbrook said. “These exercises take a lot of planning and coordination, and you have to be patient with these things. It takes a while to get it set up to run through a scenario that only lasts a couple minutes. Communicate, coordinate, and help each other out, because when it really goes down, that’s exactly what we’re going to have to do, and that’s why we’re all practicing this. So, when and if it happens, it’s not the first time we’ve ever done it.”