(TNS) - Reports of a man on Marywood University’s campus with a gun Wednesday afternoon drew police from Dunmore, Scranton and Throop, as well as state police and county detectives.
Officers quickly located and arrested Alexander Barowski, 28, of Archbald. No shots rang out. No one was injured. The incident was an example of how different departments work together in a crisis.
Police agencies throughout Lackawanna County, Pa., have a memorandum of understanding in place where they can respond to other jurisdictions for major incidents or to support one another, District Attorney Shane Scanlon said.
Police and first responders locally train for active shooter situations and other disasters.
“We do have those MOUs in place so everyone can respond and offer assistance,” Scanlon said.
‘All hands on deck’
A large-scale incident somewhere locally, like the one in Las Vegas that left 59 dead and hundreds wounded, would elicit a response from agencies across the county.
“It would be a multi-jurisdictional response, without question,” Scranton Police Chief Carl Graziano said. “Something like that would be all hands on deck.”
All Scranton police officers have completed scenario-based active shooter training; another departmentwide training is scheduled for January, Graziano said. The department performs the drills locally, using schools that aren’t in session or vacant buildings, he said. Most of the active shooter training conducted is geared toward the patrol division, which would be the first to respond to an active shooter situation, he said.
Pennsylvania state police train continuously for responses to a variety of incidents, including active shooter and mass casualty situations, Pennsylvania state police communications director Ryan Tarkowksi said. Training scenarios include hostage situations and also scenarios that mimic real-life incidents, like a vehicle driving into a large crowd, Tartakowski said.
‘What to expect’
Local departments don’t operate in a bubble. Should a disaster strike, locals will look to departments in surrounding areas for help. They also respond to neighboring regions as needed.
The state is divided into nine regional emergency response or counterterrorism task forces. Lackawanna County is part of the Northeast Pennsylvania Regional Counter Terrorism Task Force, which also encompasses Lehigh, Northampton, Carbon, Monroe, Susquehanna, Wayne and Pike counties, according to Lehigh County Emergency Services Director and task force Chairman Scott Lindenmuth.
The task force provides avenues for funding for equipment, training and other resources for law enforcement and other first responders as well as a way for various departments throughout the task force to train together and pool resources for a variety of emergencies, including active shooter situations, Lindenmuth said.
“You want to ... get a comfort zone and good feeling of who you’re working with and what to expect,” Lindenmuth said.
Resources, like tactical vehicles or bomb robots, and manpower from one part of the task force can be shared within the regional task force upon request, he said.
The county 911 center would take the initial calls and coordinate the response to an active shooter or mass casualty incident here. The county Emergency Management Agency could also reach out to the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency or to surrounding counties during or after an emergency for additional assistance, county Emergency Services Director David Hahn said.
‘Use your resources’
Like law enforcement, medical first responders and facilities also train for disasters — and they have plans and special equipment at their disposal.
It would be impossible for emergency medical responders to completely prepare for something like what happened in Las Vegas, said Joe Moran, operations manager of Commonwealth Health Emergency Medical Services. The service has about 55 vehicles throughout Lackawanna, Wayne, Luzerne and Wyoming counties. In the event of a mass casualty scenario, they could send out an alert to emergency medical personnel to staff their ambulances and respond, Moran said.
The service has a critical care team, made up of a paramedic and nurse with advanced training, who can provide care above the level of a paramedic on the scene of an incident. They also have a critical care helicopter that carries blood for transfusions that can be given en route to a hospital, he said.
A few years ago, the service also added a “Tactical Combat Casualty Care” team, Moran said. The 10 or 12 members of the team have specialized training and the service has body armor, helmets and other gear for them to use during an active shooter situation, Moran said.
“You use your resources, use them effectively and make sure you can get your patients transported to the hospital as quickly as possible,” Moran said.
The service also participates in training with hospitals when the facilities do mass casualty training, he said.
‘Have to be prepared’
The area is fortunate to have three trauma centers in close proximity.
Geisinger Community Medical Center in Scranton, Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center in Plains Twp. and Wilkes-Barre General Hospital in Wilkes-Barre are each level 2 trauma centers, said Cheryl McDonald-Sweet, director of trauma services at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital.
Her facility is equipped with three trauma bays. The others have five between them, Geisinger spokeswoman Megan Sobieski said. All have plans in place to utilize extra room and prioritize care, if needed, in mass casualty situations.
Geisinger hospitals practice mass casualty situations at least once a year, said Stephanie Gryboski , director of emergency management at Geisinger Health System. An outside facilitator presents a scenario and 20 to 50 patients — some live volunteers, others mannequins — are brought into the emergency department with mock injuries for treatment. Then the facilitator evaluates performance, Gryboski said.
They also do mock drills simulating an influx of patients at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital, a Commonwealth Health System facility, McDonald-Sweet said.
“God forbid, we’d hope to never have one of those situations, but in today’s society, we have to be prepared for them to happen,” she said.
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According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, “An active shooter is an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area, typically through the use of firearms.”
Characteristics of an Active Shooter:
Victims are selected at random – no pattern.
The event is unpredictable and evolves quickly.
Law enforcement is usually required to end an active shooter situation.
When an active shooter is in your vicinity:
• Have an escape route and plan in mind.
• Leave your belongings behind.
• Keep your hands visible for law enforcement.
• Hide in an area out of the shooter’s view.
• Block entry to your hiding place and lock the doors.
• Silence your cell phone and/or pager.
• As a last resort and only when your life is in imminent danger.
• Attempt to incapacitate the shooter.
• Act with physical aggression and throw items at the shooter.
Call 911 When It Is Safe To Do So
Information you should provide to 911 or law enforcement:
Location of the active shooter.
Number of shooters.
Physical description of shooters.
Number and type of weapons held by the shooters.
Number of potential victims at the location.
How to respond when law enforcement arrives:
Remain calm and follow instruction.
Put down any items in your hands.
Raise hands and spread fingers, keep hands visible at all times.
Avoid quick movements toward officers.
Avoid pointing, screaming or yelling.
Do not stop to ask officers for help or direction when evacuating.
— PENNSYLVANIA GOVERNOR’S OFFICE OF HOMELAND SECURITY
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