Dozens of organizations prepare for full-scale active shooter exercise

CAPE MAY, N.J. – Several dozen law enforcement, emergency management and military organizations are preparing for the first full-scale active shooter exercise aboard a Coast Guard training center Thursday at 9 a.m.

The Coast Guard has partnered with more than several dozen local, state and federal law enforcement and emergency management agencies to test its response to a shooter attacking or injuring attendees of a simulated graduation. More than 41,000 people visit Coast Guard Training Center Cape May each year, and training center officials believe an unprovoked aggressor injuring recruits, guests or staff is a plausible threat to the safety and security of the facility.

More than 300 people will be participating in the exercise including recruits, law enforcement officers, emergency response personnel and Coast Guardsmen. The exercise area will encompass much of Training Center Cape May and several blocks in the neighborhoods adjacent to the facility where residents may see numerous police and EMS vehicles staged for the exercise.

In the exercise scenario, a graduation attendee begins firing indiscriminately on hundreds of recruits, guests and staff members on the base’s Parade Field. Coast Guard and law enforcement personnel will be firing blank ammunition during this portion of the exercise to make the training environment more realistic. The exercise shooter will take a civilian hostage and shelter in a building on the base prompting a response from the Cape May County SWAT Team.

Numerous people will be killed or injured during the exercise, which is aimed at overwhelming and testing the triage capabilities of Coast Guard and local emergency response crews. A specific number of wounded or dead cannot be released to ensure exercise integrity. However, the response will involve at least a dozen different emergency response vehicles and several area hospitals.

The exercise players including victims, police and EMS personnel will respond as if this were an actual active shooter event. The Parade Field on Training Center Cape May, which is larger than a football field, will be filled with recruits and simulated graduation attendees. Residents may hear yells from simulated victims or emergency announcements over the base’s loud speakers about the exercise. Simulated graduation attendees will also flee the Parade Field to test the training center staff’s ability to evacuate the Parade Field in an emergency.

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