TRI CITY — The radio traffic coming from South Umpqua High School sounded scarily familiar at first.
“We have gunfire, center hallway, north side of the building.”
This time, it wasn’t real.
Should a real active shooter threat happen again in Douglas County, law enforcement aims to be ready. Police officers from several agencies gathered at South Umpqua High School on Wednesday to train for the worst-case scenario.
Officers from Sutherlin, Winston, Roseburg and Myrtle Creek participated in the active shooter training on Wednesday morning.
Sounds like gunfire and loud yelling could be heard during the exercise, with police shouting instructions to other officers and to possible victims as they searched room by room for a possible shooter.
Citizens listening to the police radio may have been startled by some of the conversation simulating the shooter’s position and shots fired. It was meant to be realistic as possible, in case officers need to respond to the real thing.
For Myrtle Creek Police Chief Jon Brewster, who took over as chief two weeks ago, the training was something he believes is well worthwhile for his young officers.
“It’s extremely valuable just to refresh the tools that they’ve been taught. New things come up with training and better tactics, so they get to learn that,” Brewster said.
Winston Police Chief Brandon Sarti said having the camaraderie where the officers trust each other is a big part of the training.
“We started this last year doing inter-agency training throughout the year on different things, and our goal on this active shooter is to try to do it at a different school or large building every year,” Sarti said. “And that way, everybody can get the familiarity of that.”
Officers were given different scenarios involving single to multiple threats. Police had to quickly identify role players who were victims or possible threats.
Sutherlin Police Sgt. Vaughn Rains was one of several training officers on scene to evaluate participants. During one scenario, he informed Roseburg police officer Zach Phillips that he has been shot in the leg. As Phillips rested on the floor holding his leg, other officers attached a “tourniquet” to the leg before he was removed from inside the school.
Outside, Phillips waited on the ground until a REACH helicopter landed in the parking lot in front of the school. Flight medics loaded him on the helicopter and carried the police officer away — still acting for the sake of training.
Instructors from the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training provided support and equipment, and coordinated training with each department.
“It’s multiple agencies reacting to some kind of an active threat and how to collectively come together to respond to that,” said Jim de Sully, regional training manager for DPSST in Salem.
South Umpqua High School has more than 40 entrances into its buildings on campus, making it beneficial for officers to become familiar with the layout of the buildings, Rains said.
“If an event ever occurs here, we’ll have an idea, we’ll know where we’re going,” Rains said. “In a real live situation, we’d all go and this is an opportunity for us to see our shortfalls and our strengths and what we can improve on.”
Kristi Caviness, an employee for Bay Cities Ambulance, was one of the role players in the exercise.
“It’s interesting to see the in-field aspect of a little bit of what it would be like in this scenario, but also to see how law enforcement handles it,” Caviness said.
Steve Westerberg, DPSST regional training coordinator for Southwest Oregon, said the exercise helps agencies to learn to work together.
“If we can get them comfortable with one another, that’s a win,” he said.
People in the neighborhood were alerted in advance to the training exercise. The training runs through Thursday at South Umpqua High School.