The Erie VA Medical Center held an active threat response training drill on Tuesday.
Police who work at the medical center do this training several times a year but this drill included staff and other first responder agencies — such as the Erie police and fire departments, EmergyCare and Pennsylvania State Police troopers.
The chief of police said this would be a beneficial exercise for all crews to understand each other’s response priorities.
“Other than the tactics that were going to be practicing to actually deploy in these situations, communications and being able to be in touch with those individuals and our backup while they’re responding are extremely important,” said Erie VA Medical Center Police Chief Kevin Kleckner.
For about two hours, multiple rounds of drills took place where a shooter with life-like weapons went through their behavioral health building until first responders were able to stop the threat.
“We started planning this exercise almost four months ago. We are an accredited facility through the joint commission and there are requirements and standards that we have to meet, one of those is conducting exercises,” said Gregory McQuaide, facility emergency manager at Erie VA Medical Center.
After the drill is completed, McQuaide along with others will be completing an after-action report. This is where officials analyze the strengths and weaknesses not only from the police tactic standpoint but also for planning.
Katie Duberg, who participated in the drill and is a local recovery coordinator at the medical center, said that even though she was prepared for what was about to happen, she ended up feeling some unexpected emotions.
“It felt a lot more real than I think I anticipated. The first time they went through the drill, I actually ended up closing my door and was hiding behind it and I was like, ‘this is a part of the drill,'” said Duberg.
This is the first time Duberg has ever participated in something like this and believes the more these types of situations are practiced the better.
“To think about even on a simulation level how intense it was, I really can appreciate the fact that we practiced this so then when it is real, we know what we need to do,” Duberg added.
John A. Gennaro, the medical center’s director, said the safety of their veterans and staff is of the utmost importance.