By David F. Rooney
Receiving a 911 call of “an active shooter” at large in a school is a scenario no Mountie hopes he or she will be called to respond to, but with 14 such incidents in Canadian schools since 1959 they know they need to be prepared.
A realistic — but fortunately make-believe — version of that scenario was played out at Revelstoke Secondary School on Wednesday, July 23. So if you wandered by Ninth Street that morning or afternoon and saw the East-West avenues blocked off by RCMP vehicles that’s what you were looking at.
Staff Sgt. Kurt Grabinsky, commander of the local detachment, said 65 RCMP members from across the Southeast District participated in the training exercise. So, too, did BC Ambulance staff, members of the Fire Rescue Service and Queen Victoria Hospital personnel. There were also eight local civilian actors. One of them was Revelstoke Theatre Company member Peter Waters.
“It was very intense,” he said in an interview on Thursday.
Waters said the scenario was run four different times and each time was as exhausting and enervating as the previous one. Waters played, at different times, a teacher or a student who was hiding from two gunmen, portrayed by local Auxiliary Constables, in the school.
“Our local Mounties went in first,” he said. “They took out the first gunman pretty quickly and went through the school room-by-room. Then they encountered a second gunman who was holding a hostage.”
At that point a call was made to the Kelowna RCMP detachment, which dispatched the Force’s heavily armed and well-equipped Emergency Response Team to Revelstoke. They arrived two hours later and ended the standoff.
“It was incredibly efficient,” Waters said. “It was also very reassuring to know that our local police force can deal with this kind of situation. It goes to show how safe we are.”
That’s probably music to Grabinsky’s ears.
He and exercise organizer Sgt. Kim Hall wanted the exercise to be as realistic as possible. And the opportunity to train in a real school was a godsend.
“It wasn’t a fake environment in a Quonset hut,” Grabinsky said. “It’s the training scenarios like this that hones our skills.”
He was, it should be noted, very pleased with the performance of Revelstoke’s detachment.
“Our general-duty members operated in excess of what I expected,” he said. “They were fearless and achieved every one of their goals.”
It should be noted there has never been a real “active shooter” at large in a Revelstoke school, although there was a bomb scare about seven or eight years ago. Nor has there been a shooting or murder in the city in many, many years. Be that as it may, it’s good to know we can count on our local police if the balloon ever goes up for real.