Fort Bliss emergency services train at Grand Theater

Sunday, July 6, 2014 - 7:15pm

Long before anyone arrived to turn on the Grand Theater projectors last Thursday morning, Fort Bliss police officers, fire fighters and rescue personnel descended on the facility to stage a drama of their own.

The training scenario included an active shooter and a hostage taker on a busy Friday night at the theater, and emergency personnel who would have to contend with three deaths – one of them a military police officer – as well as hostage negotiations, evacuations and helping people shelter in place.

Todd M. Pidone, deputy chief of police for the Fort Bliss Directorate of Emergency Services, said the intent of the training was to help prepare emergency personnel to work together well in the event of a large-scale emergency. 

The June 26 training was one of many training scenarios the directorate has conducted using the National Incident Management System, which helps federal, state, tribal and local governmental agencies work together before, during and after incidents, Pidone said.

The directorate is federally mandated to become fully proficient with NIMS by 2015, Pidone said.
“This encompassed a lot of agencies that we don’t normally train with,” including the federal Department of Homeland Security, Pidone said.

As many as 130 people participated in the event, Pidone said.

To ensure the safety of everyone on post, emergency personnel practiced evacuating people from the area of the theater, shutting down the post and helping people who work at and patronize Freedom Crossing shelter in place, Pidone said. Volunteer actors played the parts of hostages and theater goers.

This was the first time the directorate had trained with a scenario where a military police officer had been killed, Pidone said.

After the shooter died in the scenario, members of the Fort Bliss Criminal Investigation Division office negotiated with the hostage taker and successfully convinced him to release hostages he had taken, Pidone said.

The directorate conducts training of this nature four times a year, Pidone said, and it will tie into a post-wide training exercise later in the year. 

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