A Realistic Mock Hostage Situation at Alvirne Prepares Hudson Police

July 11, 2014

by AJ Dickinson

As a nationally accredited law enforcement agency, the Hudson Police Department is required to participate every three years in what is referred to as an “All Hazards Mock Drill.”  As a progressive event, the experience-building drill begins the first year of its three-phase program at a roundtable discussion meeting.  These discussions cover the basics of strategically resolving a major scenario or incident.

During the second year a law enforcement agency such as the Hudson Police is trained using a giant model city located on the top of a table at the police academy.  Officers participating in this drill are asked to react to a predetermined crisis by making various moves and decisions.  In this phase of their training, officers must ask themselves such questions as who do you call, how do you respond and should you enter the building or not?  And should the Fire Department be called in?

After completing these first two general phases of training, the department is then ready to participate in the large-scale version of the “All Hazards Mock Drill.”

In the past, Hudson has held drills like a mock bank robbery held just three years ago.  However, not all of the mock drills include an active shooter-type situation.  This year, on Tuesday, July 1, the Hudson Police Department who was accompanied by other neighboring departments such as Litchfield, Londonderry, and the Southern New Hampshire Special Operations Unit were ready and prepared to face a mock hostage situation at Alvirne High School.  The entire event, which was held from 1 to 8 p.m., was the result of months of planning.  Designed by Officer Christopher Cavallaro of the Support Services Division, the scenario was an accumulation of real current events.  After researching real-life situations Cavallaro formulated a realistic and challenging plot for the officers to endure.  As the creator of the SNHSOU training scenarios, Cavallaro spends most of his time putting together these situations on a day-to-day basis.

As the drill began HPD was first on the scene, arriving within a few minutes of the mock 9-1-1 call.  After grouping with three other officers, the patrolmen stormed through the gym doors where a smoke machine had been set up to cut down on the visibility.  Between the smoke and the fire alarm these officers really felt a sense of urgency as they followed the gun shot sounds to the second floor library where the hostages were being held.

HPD’s Sergeant John McGregor reflected on the stress factor of his officers even in a mock drill. “The guys knew going into this that it’s a drill … but you really do end up getting into it.”  McGregor continued, “Under stress you tend to lose some of the visual acuity and start getting tunnel vision, you don’t see the little clues,” speaking of the bullet rounds that were spread through various parts of the school as clues.

The actual drill was carried out for three full hours until the situation was under control and the entire school was then searched thoroughly.  Confidently, the police sergeant explained how he felt it was a successful exercise, “I think our response is pretty much what we are looking for.”  Although communication didn’t seem to be the clearest it could have been; it’s only natural to have some confusion when you get that many agencies working together in such a large group.  “Communication is always something that can be improved,” McGregor said.

With the help of the several law enforcement organizations, as well as the Hudson Fire Department and Hudson Explorers program, the exercise was executed swiftly and in a professional manner.  “It wasn’t 100-percent perfect,” said Sergeant McGregor as he wrapped up the interview.  “Everybody makes mistakes; we want to make our mistakes in a training environment, before it could get someone hurt or killed.”