Emergency responders and school officials from across southern Maine will gather at Deering High School in Portland this week to practice their response in the event of a school shooting.

The District II Training Council and the Portland Police Department will conduct the training exercise at the Stevens Avenue school after classes are dismissed Friday and during the day Saturday.

“The goal of this is to better prepare us to respond to an active assailant type of call. We fully recognize (that) when we get this type of call, no individual department has all the resources needed to handle the response,” said Gorham Deputy Police Chief Christopher Sanborn, who coordinates District II training exercises. District II includes Cumberland County.

The exercise will begin around 3 p.m. Friday with a briefing before moving on to practical exercises dealing with entry and building control tactics, and emergency medical practices, Sanborn said. On Saturday, participants will simulate an active assailant situation, beginning at 9 a.m., and police will practice tactics. Senior officers will take part in a tabletop exercise, Sanborn said.

About 35 students, from high school and Southern Maine Community College, have volunteered to play the role of students in the exercise, Sanborn said. Counselors will be available, as they would be in an actual assault, for the participating students and officers if needed, he said.

Saturday’s exercise should wrap up by midafternoon, Sanborn said.


Because the exercise is not being conducted during school hours, Sanbord said, there should be no repeat of a police security review in Windham a year ago that rattled some students who were ordered by an officer to get on the floor. Police said the order should not have been given and blamed miscommunication for the incident.

Portland Police Sgt. Dan Hayden said fliers were to be delivered in the neighborhood to alert residents of the exercise. A reverse 911 call also will be going to those who are signed up for such notifications.

Hayden said residents may start seeing an uptick of activity early Saturday morning, followed by ambulances, police cruisers and fire engine activity until about 10:30 a.m. Most of the activity, however, will be inside the school.

“If people hear noise or a shooting sound coming from the building, they shouldn’t worry. We are doing an active shooter training. It is not real-world,” he said.

The exercise, Hayden said, will help first responders react to an active assailant, and allow participants to determine what local, regional, state and federal resources would be needed at the scene, as well as in the hours and days following the incident.

The exercise will involve local police and fire departments, school officials, the FBI, the Office of the State Medical Examiner and the Maine Attorney General’s Office, among others.


Sanborn said this is the second such training exercise in the four years he has organized for District II. A similar active shooter training was held at Gorham High School last year.

More training, he said, is always needed when it comes to something like an active assailant incident.

“These type of incidents are happening all the time and this is something where our plans have to constantly be updated,” he said. ‘The more we plan, the more we train together, the better we can respond to an incident should we find ourselves in that position.”

The active assailant scenario, which is expected to conclude by midmorning Saturday, will be followed by a debriefing. Participants will be asked to evaluate what went well, what didn’t, and what could be done differently. A follow-up meeting will be scheduled to go over those responses, Sanborn said.

Press Herald Staff Writer Ed Murphy contributed to this story.

Michael Kelley can be reached at 780-9106 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @mkelleynews

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