Camouflaged RCMP members with carbine rifles converged on Glenfir School in Summerland Wednesday during a shooting and hostage-taking exercise.
Multiple resources used at the now-closed facility included regular and emergency response officers, negotiators, helicopter, emergency medical services and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV).
“It’s an alarming trend (mass shootings like the one in Orlando, Fla.) we’re seeing around the world, it’s front and centre in the media and it’s something we all need to be alive to. We’re trying to do our best to train and educate our members,” said Cpl. Brian Burke of the Southeast District Emergency Response Team, who previously headed the Penticton detachment’s dog service unit. “We’re not trying to be fearmongers, but we’re trying to show this is a very unique skill set that members of your police force have to deal with in situations today.”
The Wednesday event began at 6:30 a.m. with an active-shooting situation inside the building in a high-stress environment for participants.
Meanwhile, outside on the school grounds, emergency response team members geared up to enter the building as the RCMP helicopter and UAV (drone) circled overhead.
According to Burke the manner of dealing with situations like Wednesday’s event has changed from passive to aggressive.
“The training now is that we go in and deal with it,” he said.
As the day went on, the incident became a hostage situation where the skills of veteran crisis negotiator Cpl. Brenda Daly came into play.
“It’s a lot more than talking, listening skills, that’s the meat and potatoes of negotiating, being able to listen and then be able to communicate,” said Daly, who heads the southeast district negotiating team.
One of her more memorable cases, which fortunately was successfully resolved, was a five-hour standoff with a man who entered a bank in Chase, armed with a bomb, gun and knife.
“The hardest part of the job is not having a peaceful resolution,” she said.
These large-scale exercises take place once or twice a year, and according to Burke, though they may not be real life, the scenarios are designed as much as possible to test the officers’ “resolve” in the event they are called to put their lives on the line in an actual emergency of this type.