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Cuyahoga County police and fire departments shift to a more immediate response to active shooters

Paramedics respond during the Active Shooter Police Training held at Frank L. Wiley School in University Heights.
Kelly Krabill
Ideastream Public Media
Paramedics respond during the Active Shooter Police Training held at Frank L. Wiley School in University Heights.

Police and fire departments in Cuyahoga County have been sending their first responders this month to take part in training sessions on responding to active shooters. The training represents a change in how first responders deal with an active shooter.

South Euclid Fire Chief David Csire said the training focuses on more collaboration between police and paramedics.

“Fire departments used to always stand outside until the scene was safe and police departments would usually group together outside and go in as a team, looking for an active shooter,” said Csire.

Now, the first officers to arrive are trained to go inside immediately to find the shooter.

The training at the Frank L. Wiley School in University Heights, known as Rescue Task Force Training, calls for paramedics, who are unarmed, to go inside with police officers to parts of a building that have already been cleared so they can treat victims as quickly as possible.

Cuyahoga County’s Office of Emergency Management is rolling out the change by conducting three-day training sessions for members of police and fire departments.

The first responders who completed those sessions then became trainers and went back to their departments to conduct single day training sessions, like the ones held in University Heights.

During a session Tuesday, one armed police officer led a pair of paramedics down the hallway of an unused middle school building. Another officer followed the paramedics and protected them from behind.

The police officers checked each of the classrooms in the hallway, and as they made their way down the hall, paramedics treated actors impersonating the wounded.

“The police and fire departments are getting together to do more unified training, that’s nothing we normally do in the past, we’re always individual,” Csire said. “So, this gives us the opportunity to handle incidents if they do arise.”

Csire said they were planning to start the training years ago, but it was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

They tried again a year ago but police departments were struggling with staffing shortages and couldn’t spare officers for the all-day training.

Csire said the goal is to eventually train every department in the county.

Matthew Richmond is a reporter/producer focused on criminal justice issues at Ideastream Public Media.