By MADDY VITALE
Pop. Pop. Pop.
There is an active shooter.
Police rush with their service weapons drawn into the former school at Park Road in Sea Isle City.
They are joined by EMS and fire personnel.
Luckily, it is just a training drill, but Cape May County law enforcement officials say it is an exercise that could help them improve response time to aid victims.
The four-day course which began Monday, is called Active Threat Integrated Response. What it stands for could mean the difference between life and death for those in active shooter and mass casualty situations, officials said.
Kenneth Super, who retired as chief of Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office Detectives, still works in his profession. Among his titles, is special operations-critical infrastructure coordinator and coordinator of the response team.
Super said the training is really for a mass casualty response team.
“When we can integrate police, fire and rescue into an active scene as soon as possible, it could save lives,” he said Wednesday.
About 43 police, fire, EMS members from throughout the county, including in Sea Isle City, Ocean City, the Wildwoods, Cape May and Lower Township, attended the four-day classes, which began Monday at the former school.
It is really a different way of handling command. Currently, police respond to a scene, secure it and then emergency workers and fire personnel tend to the wounded.
But with Active Threat Integrated Response training police would be able to escort the other emergency workers in when the situation is “warm.” A “hot” scene means an active shooter. A warm scene means it is still not 100 percent secure but there is not an active shooter, Super explained.
“This is really the next level of active shooter training,” Super said.
A county subcommittee is in the process of setting a formal policy to develop a county-wide active threat integrated response task force.
The hope, Super noted, is that it will be in play by the end of 2020.
And the goal is to have at least one EMS vehicle or fire vehicle in each municipality that is part of the task force to be outfitted with a protective ballistic vest and helmet. Mass casualty kits would also be supplied to the agencies involved.
Super said some companies and departments already have that equipment.
Super said that the county was grateful to Sea Isle City, Mayor Leonard Desiderio and Police Chief Tom McQuillen for allowing them to train at the school.
Sea Isle City Public Information Officer Katherine Custer said the mayor and the chief were very supportive of the training.
“The county reached out to our police chief and the chief, in turn, asked Mayor Desiderio who gave the OK for the training,” Custer said. “Our mayor and our chief are very much for our public safety and the city is happy to work with the County Prosecutor’s Office for the very worthwhile effort.”
The county is working closely with the state Office of Homeland Security with Mike Urbanski, the state’s training liaison, as the point person.
He said the active threat integrated response team is throughout the country.
“It is a concept nationwide. We are trying to make it work throughout the state,” Urbanski said of it being introduced over the last year in New Jersey.
Urbanski and his team will be heading to Atlantic County in February.
State Homeland Security Exercise Coordinator Lauren Paglione watched, with Urbanski, during the drill at the school.
“Police, fire and EMS already work together. This is just another step. It is a shift in the way they are thinking,” Paglione added.
The course is taught by experts from Louisiana State University.
Jeff Borkowski, a retired New York City firefighter, was the main instructor for the course in Sea Isle.
“This course is exciting because it is cutting edge and really teaches law enforcement and EMS to work together,” Borkowski, who specializes in counter-terrorist education explained.
For Super, the task force just makes sense.
“Fire, police and EMS work well together, but this will take it to the next level,” he noted. “An active threat integrated response team is needed. That is what this course is all about.”