In April 2022, the Maryland-National Capital Region Emergency Response System (MDERS) culminated an eight-month effort in partnership with the Prince George’s County Police Department (PGPD) to plan and conduct a series of exercises focused on the department’s response to an active shooter incident evolving into a barricaded suspect.
Planning efforts for this exercise cycle began in September 2021 for two exercises: a discussion-based, tabletop exercise (TTX), and an operations-based, full-scale exercise (FSE). Throughout the planning process, MDERS conducted bi-weekly planning meetings with PGPD leadership to establish exercise objectives, develop exercise scenarios, address logistical concerns, formulate timelines, identify participants, and assess needed resources for a realistic exercise environment. The planning team outline four primary objectives of the exercise series:
- Evaluate Prince George’s County Police Supervisors and Command Staff’s ability to establish and maintain command and control.
- Analyze the Prince George’s County Police Department’s transfer of command from patrol to special operations response.
- Assess patrol officers’ ability to provide first responder initial care.
- Assess Prince George’s County Police Tactical Emergency Medical Services (TEMS) personnel’s ability to provide point of injury and patient care, and extrication of patients.
On March 2, 2022, PGPD conducted the first exercise utilizing the MDERS Tabletop In A Box toolkit. This discussion-based exercise allowed participants to work through three, distinct scenarios using a “crawl, walk, run” philosophy. This philosophy introduces increasingly complex elements allowing participants to progressively become familiar with the scenario and examine more intricate concepts. Twenty-two officers worked through these scenarios on an aerial-view map of the incident location using simulated models of real-world resources.
On April 13th, 2022, the exercise cycle reached its capstone with a six-hour, full-scale exercise at PGPD’s Public Safety Firearm and Tactical Training Complex in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. The planning team purposefully selected this 160,000 square foot facility as it allowed exercise participants to train in a realistic environment with commercial and residential buildings, as well as provided a controlled area of play monitored closely by PGPD personnel for the safety of all exercise participants.
The FSE consisted of two scenarios designed to measure any training gaps between patrol officers and the teams who have received additional specialized training. The first scenario began with an active threat incident inside a restaurant that transitioned into a suspect fleeing and barricading inside a nearby apartment. In addition to patrol officers, this scenario necessitated the involvement of PGPD’s Conflict Negotiations Team, Special Operations Division, Aviation Division, and K-9 Unit.
Upon completion of the first scenario, the exercise planning team reset the facility to conduct a second scenario, targeted at a more advanced response team. The second scenario consisted of an active threat moving from a restaurant to a facility with multiple rooms. In lieu of a barricaded suspect, officers were prompted to neutralize the active threat and clear the building.
In all, 143 PGPD officers participated in the exercise, which marks MDERS’s first ever full-scale exercise. While the formal after-action review process is ongoing, and expected to conclude in July 2022, preliminary feedback from exercise participants was overwhelming positively and numerous strengths and areas for improvement were identified by the evaluation team which will help PGPD continue to improve and expand upon their existing response capabilities.