PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – An active shooter inside a busy place like a mall or a school is a nightmare scenario for police.
And many departments devote hours to preparing for such a threat.
In May of this year, police responded immediately and apprehended the a suspect after a bomb threat at the South Hills Village Mall.
In November, police also responded immediately to a bomb threat at Ross Park Mall.
In both cases, highly trained officer from both malls and local police were at the scene.
“It’s better to be prepared and well-trained for an incident before it happens,” Upper St. Clair Police Lt. and safety Consultant John Sakion said.
Sakion knows the game. He’s trained more than 1,000 local law enforcement officers in what is called “active shooter and incident command” training.
His people conduct active shooter drills at South Hills Village, as well as schools, businesses and even hospitals all over the region.
Similar training was critical in stopping Western Psych Shooter John Shick in March of last year.
New Jersey sources confirm police at the Garden Plaza Mall – where a shooter took his own life Monday night – responded with officers with active shooter training.
“That’s the purpose of the training ahead of time,” Sakion said, “so individuals, corporations, the educational environment, universities know how to respond, how to repair, prevent, respond and recover to any violent incident.”
Using the example of security at a mall, experts conduct what are called “table top” exercises – actual scale models of buildings and stores set up like a game board for training.
They also do actual hands-on drills at the mall to practice for a possible threat.
Those drills have been done at most local malls, including some South Hills Village and Ross Park.
“We train all the time,” said Brian Kohlepp with Ross Police. “We train on a department level here, on a department level here in Ross and we train with the North Hills Special Response Team.”
KDKA contacted all of the local malls, including at Ross Park. Simon property also owns South Hills Village.
Although they don’t want to talk about specifics of their security procedures, the local police who train there, who know the malls, say two things: that those incidents are extremely rare and that those mall properties are better prepared to handle any sort of incident than ever before.