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Multi-agency active shooter training closes roads

SAFFORD — One of the largest active shooter training exercises among local agencies took place Friday.

The active shooter training, located at Safford High School, began at 1 p.m. and was over at 2:30 p.m. In the training, coordinated by Lifeline Ambulance operations supervisor Rylee Woods, two individuals posed as active shooters and entered the high school. Streets near the school were temporarily closed during the training.

Participating agencies included Safford Police, Thatcher Police, Graham County Sheriff’s Office, Pima Police and Graham County Search and Rescue. Multiple emergency medical services departments also took part, including Lifeline Ambulance, Pima Fire Department, Thatcher Fire Department, Safford Fire Department, Greenlee EMS, Freeport McMoRan Rescue, LifeNet and AirEvac.

Safford High School staff and approximately 50 student volunteers also participated in the exercise.

“In a small town, we have limited resources, so what we were trying to work on was how we would work together with all the different agencies and how we would pull together in an incident like that,” Woods said, “then just practice communicating with each other and working together to get all those patients to the appropriate facilities to be treated.”

The school building where the active shooter training took place was emptied prior to the scenario. When the two individuals posing as shooters entered the building, 911 was notified. Graham County law enforcement responded, and once police cleared the scene, EMS personnel went into action. Multiple students posed as victims. LifeNet and AirEvac helicopters flew two “patients” each to Mount Graham Regional Medical Center in order to practice what it could be like in an active shooter circumstance. The hospital and the Graham County Health Department were involved in the drill as well.

“I’ve been in local EMS for seven years and have not witnessed a training to this extent,” Woods said. “Every agency drills on their own or with a couple other departments, but I don’t recall the last time we have done a training with this many different departments.”