Bonner School was the scene of mock school violence on Tuesday as Missoula Police, Sheriff, teachers, administrators and hospital personnel took part in training from The Safariland Group out of Ontario, California.

Brad Giffin
photo by Peter Christian

Captain Brad Giffin with the Missoula County Sheriff's Department spoke with the media in one of the school classrooms, as Safariland personnel worked with the volunteers who will be learning school safety techniques, and teaching them in turn, to others.Giffin said denial that such an event as a school shooting incident could actually happen is a deadly attitude.

"Part of the focus of this training is to do away with denial, because during that denial phase, people are dying," Giffin said. "If you haven't gone through these scenarios and you haven't gone through at least the thought process that this could really happen, and what should I do if it does happen, then that denial phase is going to take up minutes of your time that you really don't have."

Giffin said the training process will help enable the participants to prepare themselves for whatever might happen in their school.

"There's a decision process, and there's an action process, and all of those processes will go much faster if you put people in a setting where they can gain experience, number one by learning it, and then number two, in a scenario where there's a little bit of stress," Giffin said.

Participants experienced what it might actually be like to be in a school shooting situation.

"There will; be some blood, there will be some loud noises, and teachers here will experience what gunshots actually sound like inside a school," Giffin said. "When you interview someone afterward they say 'I thought it was just fireworks.' When was the last time you heard fireworks go off inside a school? If you hear something that sounds like gunfire, your thought process should say, 'that's gunfire.'

Sheriff's Captain Brad Giffin

Terry Nichols
photo by Peter Christian

Terry Nichols is the chief instructor for Safariland who addressed the need for the kind of hands-on, scenario-style training offered to individuals in American schools.

"In light of the things that happened at Sandy Hook, we've all learned that sometimes lockdown is not enough," Nichols said. "We help prepare our first responders, our teachers and our kids in our school districts to respond to a critical situation like a shooter."

Nichols said school shootings have been increasing in frequency over the years.

"Active shooter events both in the general public and in schools is increasing," Nichols said. "Last week in Santa Monica, California you saw that its not stopping. Columbine was a watershed event for law enforcement, because we couldn't wait for SWAT teams to arrive, regular patrol officers had to deal with the situation. It takes time for law enforcement to arrive, and there's a gap, and we're trying to work in that gap."

Safariland Instructor Terry Nichols

In one of the classrooms, instructors were working with a female teacher, showing her effective ways to fight hand-to-hand with an intruder. She was instructed to knee the intruder in the groin, jab her thumbs into his eyes, and deliver an elbow strike to his head. Hesitant at first, after encouragement by the instructor and her fellow trainees, she became more enthusiastic in her fighting.

In another classroom, instructors demonstrated the use of a tourniquet to stop the flow of blood from a mock gunshot wound to a victim's hand, complete with liquid that simulated spurting blood. Instructors use realistic effects to help students understand they will be dealing with real blood, and real wounds in case of a school shooting.

Tuesday afternoon, students in training were exposed to the sound of real gunfire in the classroom, to simulate the stress of an actual school shooting situation. Instructors asked the media not to film or photograph certain parts of the training, so as not to provide revealing information to a potential attacker.

The cost of the training is being picked up primarily by Missoula law enforcement agencies.


More From Newstalk KGVO 1290 AM & 98.3 FM