UNION, NJ – Union police, fire and EMS personnel had a rare opportunity on Thursday to train for an active shooter scenario at a large, vacant office building.

“This is a high risk, low frequency event that hopefully we never have to respond to,” said Captain Chris Donnelly, “but we need to be prepared.”  The training took place at the building known as the old Money Store on the corner of Morris Avenue and Spruce Street, which has been vacant for many years.  Recently purchased by Children’s Specialized Hospital of Mountainside, the building is to be renovated by them beginning late March.  “This is a large scale exercise, and we appreciate the opportunity to have it,” said Donnelly.

Donnelly described the active shooter scenario as the scene of an office building filled with employees and visitors as a disgruntled employee enters and begins shooting.  Police officers are engaged from the moment the 9-1-1- call is received.  “It’s first to arrive, first in,” said Donnelly.  “The objective is to stop the threat.”  He said after the initial officers enter the building, other officers are dispatched and sent in as rescue teams. 

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At the active shooter exercise, a casualty collection point was set up as an initial triage area.  “We need to determine who are victims and who is a suspect(s),” said Donnelly.  “Then, EMS and paramedics treat the wounded and begin marshalling them for basic or advanced life support treatment.”  He said emergency personnel determine the best course of immediate treatment and the best facility to send the wounded. 

A unified command post, supervised by a tactical commander, is set up to oversee police, fire, EMS, and surrounding towns and county emergency responders.  “Once the threat is stopped, we need to clear the building, and then it turns into a crime scene.”  The command post manages logistics, resources, and assignments during the emergency. 

“It’s a question of when we’ll need to use these skills,” said Union Fire Chief Mike Scanio.  “We want our teams to be as comfortable as possible in the event of an actual threat.”

Members of the team acted as victims and police, fire, and EMS personnel ran through the scenario.