WYOMING, Mich. (WOOD) — As the nation reels from the tragedy of the Broward County school massacre, people in Wyoming are learning what to do if they ever find themselves in that situation.
It is called an “active shooter simulation,” but this one took it to another level as British Special Forces, Blackwater operatives, Navy Seals and former and current police officers showed a group of about 50 area business people what the situation is really like.
The shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida took 17 lives and was different than others in terms of both the number of people killed and the tactics used. The 19-year-old killer pulled a fire alarm that created more panic and herded victims into the line of fire.
On Thursday, this simulation incorporated that into the scenario created at the Grand Rapids First Church on 44th Street SW.
As participants gathered in three different rooms, there was sound of gunfire and screams, the lights went out and the fire alarm sounded. Within the rooms, a strobe light boosted the sense of disorientation and panic.
The training was coordinated by Express Employment Professionals, located not far from the mega-church where it was held.
The participants Thursday were mostly business people and office workers.
“That was mind-blowing for me,” said participant Lorraine Medici. “Yeah, even though I knew it was coming, it was still incredibly scary and nerve-wracking and sense of helplessness but it was really amazing to see how people pulled together.”
This is training that seems more relevant than ever as in America, it can seem like a rare week where gun violence on a grand scale does not occur.
David Grover is a former Holland Police officer for more than two decades, a former Navy SEAL and worked for Blackwater in Afghanistan after 9/11.
“Eventually, we have to understand as a nation, these are gonna happen and at that point being prepared for when it does happen,” Grover said.
Grover and some buddies — including a former British Special Forces who went around terrorizing the participants — put this training together.
They hope each of these people can return to their companies and be the person who helps save lives when tragedy strikes.
“It’s one thing to learn it in the classroom setting, it’s another to kind of really go through the noises. All of that is incredible,” Medici said.
The main message here is that there are two options: flee or fight.
Grover said what happened in Florida will happen again and while locking down schools and identifying potential threats is vitally important, it won’t solve everything.
“Eventually we have to be prepared for when that person gets into the building and starts shooting because we’re probably not gonna be able to stop that all the time,” Grover said.
He says paying attention to someone like the 19-year-old suspect in Florida who was showing obvious signs of potential threat.
“Some of the simple things we can do is pay attention to a problem suspect who has issues. Social media shows that, shows those things and that’s big,” Grover said.
He said resources for police in schools could make a difference.
“I was a school resource officer at Holland High School for seven years before 9/11 and I took off to Afghanistan,” Grover said. “That’s a big deal, having an officer on campus who gets to know the staff and the kids.”
A veteran, multiple gun owner and gun rights advocate, Grover still sees that there need to be changes.
“This individual probably shouldn’t have not been able to purchase that weapon with his background and kinda what people know,” he said.
This was the first time this kind of training has been done by this group, but they say it probably won’t be the last.