Fort Rucker puts active-shooter incident response to the test

The Fort Rucker Directorate of Public Safety ran a drill and a tabletop exercise Nov. 12 and 13 respectively to hone its and the community's skills in responding to an active-shooter incident.

“While the results of the drill in Bldg. 5700 Nov. 12 were mixed, the tabletop exercise paid big preparedness dividends,” said Lt. Col. Phillip Lenz, DPS director.

"It was a really great exercise – really enjoyable to see the directorates come together and support this piece," Lenz said, “An active-shooter incident is something we have to be prepared to respond to. Working to keep this post and all of the people on it safe is what we do every day, for sure, but it takes a whole community to make that happen."

The tabletop exercise involved directorates from around the garrison, and also representatives from off-post community emergency services, talking through an active-shooter scenario taking place in Bldg. 5700, the same location used for the Tactical Tuesday drill the day before.

"The exercise was really about the first-response aspect of things, and from there we looked at the short- and mid-term impacts," Lenz said. "We focused on our first responders – how our military and civilian police teams and firefighters come together to support the initial response. Most active-shooter incidents are completed within three to five minutes – they happen pretty quickly and we want to make sure we have our wires connected collectively to support the bigger overall response."

The exercise also incorporated improvements found during the Installation Management Command full-scale exercise last year, he said.

"We incorporated a lot of lessons learned from the previous exercise and previous observations to try to bring it together in an open forum as leaders to say, 'Hey, what are the gaps and seams? What are we going to do if an incident happens and how can we make our response better?'

"No one's ever perfect, but we want to have these exercises to challenge our teams and make sure that we can identify those gaps and seams," Lenz continued. "I think the bigger piece is really opening up the aperture for us to see how a lot of these different directorates can support the first phase of the operation – the initial and follow-on response."

The drill in Bldg. 5700 took most people in the building by surprise, and it was intended to, the DPS director said.

"Any time you do any kind of exercise, it's hard to replicate reality," Lenz said. "The last thing we wanted to do was go in there with any type of realistic scenario to scare people and freak them out – we wanted to keep it as low impact as we could."

The drill kicked off with a building-wide announcement that the exercise was taking place and people should respond as they would in a real situation. Some did, some didn't, according to the evaluators stationed on each floor who walked the halls and checked in offices to determine if people were taking the proper actions.

Some items noted included people not responding at all; some responding, but not with a sense of urgency; some not picking very good hiding places; and people looking out windows to see what was going on when they should be hiding, the evaluators said.

Other issues were found, as well, but that was the whole goal of the drill, Lenz said.

"We definitely identified some of those gaps and seams," he said. "These exercises and drills help us, as leaders, to determine how we are training and educating our people. We need to determine how we can instill that readiness mindset into the civilian side, so at least they understand what they need to do if something like that happened.”

Reaching that goal "starts with leadership," Lenz said. "One of the things we saw is that all leaders and directorates are not the same – some took it very seriously, some didn't."

In its most basic form, the strategy to remember in a real-world active-shooter incident is run, hide, fight – with fight being only as a last resort, according to, which has more tips at

"You want to follow your emergency reaction plans – know your lockdown procedures, make sure you're hidden well, make sure the lights are off and keep a low profile," Lenz said. "This type of scenario is one of the biggest threats in the nation – we need to be ready."

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