By Bob Reinert/USAG-Natick Public AffairsMay 14, 2014
NATICK, Mass. (May 14, 2014) -- On the morning of May 7, gunshots rang out near Building 19 on Natick Soldier Systems Center.
Within minutes, first responders from U.S. Army Garrison Natick Police, the Natick Police Department and other law enforcement agencies arrived on the scene, and the installation went into lockdown.
An hour later, there were 13 killed -- including the two shooters -- and five wounded. Fortunately, this was NSSC's annual antiterrorism/emergency management exercise and not a real active shooter incident. The two-day event was designed to test NSSC's ability to respond while partnering with local and state agencies.
"This is an annual requirement, to conduct an emergency management exercise," said Lt. Col. Brian Greata, USAG-Natick commander. "Here at Natick, we've got really strong working relationships with all of our local partners.
"Really, it's a mutual benefit by doing these exercises this way. They get the benefit of having a somewhat realistic scenario, and we get the benefit of working through our processes, understanding how we work with external partners to effectively deal with the situation, deal with the consequences."
Areas of focus this year included fatality management, media management and family assistance.
We kind of encompassed those into this exercise program, using the active shooter as a trigger," said Scott Whitney, the exercise director. "And this definitely helped us understand where our shortcomings are and what our successes were for this exercise."
The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts sent its personnel and a mobile mortuary to handle the simulated fatalities.
"We have the ability today to just test out some new equipment that we've been able to acquire for setting up temporary morgue operations at a location outside of the main office," said Dr. Henry Nields, the state's chief medical examiner. "A lot of this is just about practicing, getting used to small glitches that might turn up. That gives us a chance to find out what those are and remedy those before a real mass-fatality situation presents itself.
"In addition, it helps us to interact with different jurisdictions and different agencies."
USAG-Natick also stood up an Emergency Family Assistance Center to help those affected by the incident.
"We've never stood up an EFAC before here," said Julie Lindahl of Army Community Services. "The purpose of the EFAC today was really just to provide psycho-social services -- so mental-health counseling and crisis counseling, those type of things."
In a mock news conference at the end of the exercise's second day, Greata took questions from students of the Connecticut School of Broadcasting.
"Ultimately, all of us come out of it more prepared," said Greata, "in the unfortunate case that something like this would happen."