First responders go through 'shooter on campus' training in Belle Glade

BELLE GLADE, Fla. -- Palm Beach County Fire Rescue teams went through a 'Shooter on Campus' exercise in the western part of the county Thursday night.

The training is meant to look and sound 'real,' so that these first responders are ready to act. With recent school shootings in California, this training is proving to be very timely.

The exercise was held at West Tech in Belle Glade. Nearly two dozen Fire Rescue responders rushed into the scene, not knowing what they would find. A few minutes into the simulation, the lights suddenly went out.

"They had kids screaming at them, shortly after the lights went out, the sound went up and they had no communications with each other," said District Captain Steven Campana. "When you become light and sound deprived and you don't have the ability to talk to the person next to you, communication becomes an issue."

It is a true test with the aim to be faster, better and prepared.

"It's like memory," said Lt. Juan Batista. "Once you do it enough times, you obviously know what you are doing and you don't hesitate to do what needs to be done."

In all, there were six gunshot victims, all played by teenage actors. "We are here to figure out how we can always do better," said Lt. Tim Lewis. "Nothing necessarily has to go wrong to help us get better."

In recent days, the 'Shooter on Campus' scenario was all too real. A gunman opened fire at a small Korean Christian university in Oakland, California. Seven people were killed. Three others were injured.

The high-intensity practice in Belle Glade could someday mean the difference between life and death, said participants.

"It's not that we are preparing for this to happen out here in the Glades, but if it does happen, we are prepared for it," said Campana.

Fire rescue officials said the training was a success. Soon after the exercise, they were reflecting on their performances, looking for ways to improve should a mass casualty incident unfold in this area in the future.

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