‘Something we’re going to have to deal with’: First responders in Rock County train for possibility of active shooter

JANESVILLE, Wis. – Police, firefighters and paramedics in Janesville trained to respond to several types of active shooter situations this week.

Utilizing the former Toys ‘R’ Us location on Milton Avenue, the first responders worked through a number of scenarios both Thursday and Friday.

“The focus of this training specifically was to go in and work as a team,” said Lt. Josh Norem of the Janesville Police Department, who worked to coordinate the training. “Work on team movements, communications, then go in and take care of the threat.”

Norem said the building layout allowed training to mimic shootings that have happened nationally this year.

We develop the training a lot of times based around national events such as the Boulder, Colorado grocery store shooting, or the warehouse shooting in San Jose,” he said. “We kind of explore those incidents and look at some of the ways these active shooter incidents can occur.”

This week’s training integrated elements of first aid and necessary medical attention, all while working in a chaotic environment.

You have the challenges of auditory stimulus, from potentially alarms going off, people yelling, possible victims yelling for help, then the sound of gunfire – all of that can be particularly disorienting and challenging for an officer,” Norem said. “The purpose of all the added stimulus and challenges and curveballs we’re throwing at the officers and to make the training as realistic as humanly possible.”

Both police and fire say communication is crucial in responding to active shooter events.

For situations like this, it’s to understand movement between the cops, knowing what they’re going to want us to do,” said Brian Barnish of the Janesville Fire Department. “We come in, try to do a quick scan, and try to identify life-threatening injuries and try to treat those as fast as we can to save lives.”

While Janesville has avoiding a mass shooting situation in recent years, Norem says preparation is still as important as ever.

Unfortunately, mass shootings are something that we’re going to have to deal with in the law enforcement community moving forward,” he said. “The best thing we’re going to do is train for when it occurs.”