PORTLAND — Emergency responders and school officials from across the region will gather at Deering High School this week to practice their response to the possibility of a school shooting.

The District II Training Council and the Portland Police Department will conduct the active assailant training exercise Friday and Saturday, May 17 and 18, at the Stevens Avenue school.

“The goal of this is to better prepare us to respond to an active assailant type of call. We fully recognized when we get this type of call, no individual department has all the resources needed to handle the response,” said Gorham Deputy Police Chief Christopher Sanborn, who coordinates District II training exercises. District II includes Cumberland County.

The exercise on Friday will begin with a briefing before moving on to practical exercises dealing with tactics, emergency medicine, and other emergency medical practices. Sanborn said the next day will include the full-scale assailant exercise, beginning at 9 a.m.

Portland Police Sgt. Dan Hayden said flyers were scheduled to be delivered in the neighborhood to alert residents of the exercise. A reverse 911 call will also be going to those who are signed up for such notifications. 

Hayden said residents may start seeing an uptick of activity early Saturday morning, followed by ambulances, police cruisers and fire engine activity until about 10:30 a.m. Most of the activity, however, will be inside the school.

“If people hear noise or a shooting sound coming from the building, they shouldn’t worry. We are doing an active shooter training. It is not real-world,” he said.

The exercise, Hayden said, will help first responders react to an active assailant, but also allow participants to determine what local, regional, state and federal resources would be needed at the scene, as well as in the hours and days following the incident.

The exercise will involve local police and fire departments, school officials, the FBI, the Office of the State Medical Examiner and the attorney general’s office, among others.

Sanborn said this is the second such exercise in the four years he has organized training for District II. A similar active shooter training was held last year at Gorham High School. 

More training, he said, is always needed when it comes to something like an active assailant incident.

“These type of incidents are happening all the time and this is something where our plans have to constantly be updated,” he said. ‘The more we plan, the more we train together, the better we can respond to an incident should we find ourselves in that position.”

The active assailant scenario, which is expected to conclude by mid-morning Saturday, will be followed by a debriefing. Participants will be asked to evaluate what went well, what didn’t, and what could be done differently. A follow-up meeting will be scheduled to go over those responses, Sanborn said.

Michael Kelley can be reached at 780-9106 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @mkelleynews.

Deering High School in Portland will be the site of an active assailant training this week for area emergency professionals and school officials.


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